Uganda to build 'Idi Amin museum' to attract tourists

Africa
By BBC
The late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. PHOTO|FILE NATION

KAMPALA - Uganda hopes to attract tourists with a war museum showcasing some of the darkest moments from its history.

Atrocities committed under ex-President Idi Amin's brutal eight-year rule and by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) are to be documented.

"We want to put the record straight," Uganda Tourism Board Chief Executive Stephen Asiimwe told the BBC.

The Uganda war museum, which has yet to be built, will also showcase pre-colonial and colonial history.

"History gets richer, it's like red wine — it gets more interesting as the years go by," Asiimwe said.

He told the BBC that the project was not intended to be insensitive or voyeuristic.
"I lived through the Idi Amin era as a young boy, my fellow students lost their parents to the regime," he said.

"However you cannot run away from history. These are facts."

- TYRANT'S LIFE - 

Joined the army - the King's African Rifles - in his 20s

Seized power in 1971, less than 10 years after Uganda's independence

Some 400,000 people are believed to have been killed under his rule

Expelled Uganda's entire Asian population in 1972, accusing them of milking the economy

A convert to Islam, he took five wives, fathered dozens of children and insisted on being called "Big Daddy"

He declared himself King of Scotland, banned hippies and mini-skirts, and awarded himself the Victoria Cross

Ousted by Tanzanian troops and Ugandan exiles in 1979

Died in Saudi Arabia in 2003

Asiimwe said that every destination had its own traditional culture and attractions.

"In Uganda, we have wildlife - mountain gorillas. But we are trying to retrace the past."

Showcasing Uganda's history would make the East African country a richer place for tourists to visit, he added.

NOTORIOUS LRA

More recently, Ugandans have had to deal with the LRA, which has claimed to be fighting to install a government based on the Biblical Ten Commandments.

Formed in Uganda more than two decades ago, the group became notorious for chopping off people's limbs and abducting children to use as soldiers and sex slaves.

Its leader, Joseph Kony, is wanted for war crimes and the group continues to operate in northern Democratic Republic of Congo and eastern Central African Republic.

He was the subject of the #Kony2012 social media campaign six years ago which detailed his alleged crimes. An online video became a viral sensation with more than 100 million views.

Colonial records were systematically destroyed by Britain in a purge known as "operation legacy".

But the war museum is expected to document some events from the period.

Construction has not yet begun, but the museum already has its detractors.

John Sempebwa, the deputy executive director of the tourism board, told VOA he disagrees with his colleagues who suggest Ugandans are ready to revisit the more painful details of their past.

"Society is divided. There are people who are still around who don't have good memories of Amin. Now, not only won't they come, they might burn this place down," he said.