The decision of the Commonwealth countries in London to condemn the "massive violation of human rights" in Uganda is a turning point in the attitude of a significant number of African states toward an issue that has been too politically delicate to touch up to now.
For the first time, 13 African heads of state or their representatives have openly discussed the state of human rights in another African country at an international forum and publicly passed harsh judgement on a colleague.
The unprecedented event could open the door to a discussion of the violation of human rights in a number of other African countries - Equatorial Guinea (Conakry), Burundi and possibly Ethophia, where a civil war is under way.
Such a public debate, even without a formal censure of any specific country, would be a phenomenon of major importance in the worldwide human rights movement and a vindication of President Carter's controversial decision to speak out forcefully on the issue.
The violation of human rights in Uganda is now likely to be brought before the summit meeting of the Organization of African Unity in Libreville, Gabon, later this month. This time, however, Uganda President Idi Amin will be able to defend himself, something he could barred him from entering the country.
It is not certain how the African organization will react to the Commonwealth's condemnation of Amin or whether it will follow suit. But even having the issue raised at a meeting of African heads of state would be without precedent. It would indicate a clear shift toward a greater African willingness to deal with what has so far been regarded as an internal affair of a member state and thus untouchable.
As for Amin, the fact that an international gathering that included 13 of his fellow African leaders condemned his government for "sustained disregard for the sanctify of life and [for] massive violation of basic human rights" is a devastating blow to his prestige and standing in Africa - even if he can spared the greater humiliation of being mentioned by name. Only Nigeria was reported to have indirectly defended the man who was once regarded as an African hero.
It appears that Africa itself is finally beginning to turn against Amin, and not just his known personal enemies inside Uganda and in neighboring states. This growing isolation could make life more dangerous than it already is for the Americans and Britons still living in Uganda, not to mention Ugandans even vaguely suspected of opposing his rule.
In any case, Amin is fast becoming a moral pariah of the African continent comparable only to South Africa with its internationally condemned apartheid system.
For years now, such human-rights groups as the International Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International have been trying in vain to galvanize the world into action to halt the violation of human rights in Uganda, where a large number of Ugandans - estimates range from 10,000 to 100,000 - have been brutally murdered by Amin's security forces.
The efforts of these two groups, and even of several Western nations led by Britain and the United States, to bring the "Uganda question" before the United Nation Human Rights Commission for debate were stymied by the Soviet bloc in alliance with Uganda.
The Commonwealth, which group is Britain and its formal colonies, with about 1 billion people, and was the first international body to speak out of Uganda. In fact, Britain forced the issue by barring Amin from the conference.
The confessions of one of Amin's top lieutenants, Health Minister Henry Kyemba, published in The London Sunday Times on the eve of the meeting probably helped greatly to set the scene for the unprecedented stand against an African government and leader.
Kyemba gave a detailed personal account of how Dora Bloch, the Israeli hostage left behind in the daring raid by Israeli commandos on Uganda's Entebbe Airport last June, was killed by Ugandan secret police acting on Amin's orders.
The former health minister also confirmed the murder of Archbishop Janani Luwum and two Cabinet minister in Febuary. He said 40 top government officials and his own brother were summarily executed by Amin's so called Public Safety unit, and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] alleged that the Ugandan president had proudly admitted cannibilism.
"I am ashamed to admit that [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] that he had eaten either the organs or the flesh of his human victims," Kyemba wrote in one of his Sunday Times articles.
Kyemba, who defected as head of Uganda's delegation to a World Health Organization conference in Geneva three weeks ago, is probably the closest [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of Amin to ever provide details of his personal life and actions. Kyemba had been Amin's private secretary for a period after Amin came to power in 1972.
Only time will tell whether Amin is finished as Uganda's leader after these disclosures and the Commonwealth censure.