Almost two weeks after the fall from power of Idi Amin, Ugandans now despised former president for life, many Ugandans find it difficult to discuss his reign of terror.
They cite the continuing reports of torture and atrocities being carried carried out in parts of the country still controlled by Amin's forces.
Others dismiss the eight years of terror that resulted in up to 300,000 deaths saying they were mainly carried out by "foreigners," as educated Ugandans regard the Nubians from the Sudanes-Ugandan border area who were responsible for much of the killing.
Among the few who will talk, however, there is an uneasiness and discomfort. One businessman said, "It's just too easy to blame it all on the illiterates."
"I still do not understand it," said the new justice minister, Dan Nabudere, in readily conceding that all 3,000 employes of the various branches of Amin's secret police could not have been foreigners.
"In general the system had a social base," he said. "It relied on social relationships, and the social relationship and the social base was wide enough to hand out privileges and patronage."
So many crimes were committed by the state and individual Ugandans, he said, that "the system started to have a momentum of its own and generated other illegalities."
In fact, the obvious bullyboys, often Nubians or refugees from neighboring Rwanda, were simply the most visible and brutal part of the terror apparatus.
Ugandan society, reputedly the most sophisticated in East Africa, also provided the paid informers, part-time spies, the anonymous letter writers, the grudge settlers, the business rivals and jilted lovers who kept the secret police informed about activities in offices, cooperatives and factories.
Many prominent Ugandans served Amin and not just in the beginning when his coup was welcomed in 1971 by many who were angered by what they felt was the highhanded and undemocratic behavior of Prime Minister Milton Obote.
Some of the new ministers did not go into exile until last year and Amin's last foreign has asked to return from his asylum in Nairobi. No one finds his behavior amiss.
No more than 50,000 Ugandans-of a total population estimated at 12.5 million-fled into exile, although as many as 300,000 may have been killed, according to an estimate by Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization.
"Amin was the master of the salami tactic," a diplomat said. "He used one group after another to stay in power."
"The educated outsmarted themselves," he added. "They thought they would make themselves indispensable to an illiterate dictator, but as a result Amin's military rule became harsher and the bureaucracy more bogged down in red tape."
Amin also exuded undoubted animal charm mixed with just the scent of danger that repels and attracts some men and women.
"He alwasy gave the impression he could shake hands with you and slap you on the back," said J.G.S. Makumbi, the medical superintendant at Mulago Hospital, "and then stab you in the back."
Eyewitnesses recalled how in the northern town of Gulu he confronted a hostile stadium full of 10,000 Acholls only months after killing hundreds of Acholi army officers in 1971.
"Amin drove into the stadium with only four soldiers. No one moved. No one made a sound. The Acholis perfomed the otole , their famous war dance, with spears and shields," one said.
"They came within inches of Amin and stopped. He asked for a shield and spear of his own, went down and danced with them. He had them eating out of the palm of his hand."
Passivity, too, played a great part in a society long used to strong central authority. Although the exiles claim they were constantly weakening Amin, it was Tanzania's invading Army which oustued him.
"We are like chickens," a missionary quoted a Ugandan fried as saying. "If the government wants to us to be nice, it feeds us. If we are considered no longer of any use, off goes the head."
"You never knew what was going to happen to you the next day," said J.S. Magoba, a former Ugandan educational attache in the United States, Britain and Canada.
"You'd stop at a roadblock and you could be piled from the car and no one would never know."
Building contractor Jack Kironde recounted how he routinely put 100 shillings-about $14 at the official, but artificial exchange rate-on his car dashboard in small denominations when he travelled in countryside. The banknotes were for the police who set up roadblocks to ask for "tea money" or for other equally fictious purposes.
Amin's rule spawned an entirely new vocabularly.
Missionaries fearful of secret police eavesdroppers, who sat next to telephone operators, came to speak of "a thunderstorm overnight" to signify large-scale murders when talking long distance to provincial colleagues.
Many Ugandans avoided speaking publicly either of Amin or the president by name.
In retrospect Amin's terror came in waves-first purges in the Army and civil service of key Obote personnel, then a major murder spree after the abortive Tanzanian invasion of September 1972, followed by a relative calm in 1973 when Amin served as chairman of the continent-wide Organization of African Unity.
But the Israeli raid to resume passengers aboard the Ari France plane hijacked by Palestinian guerrillas in July 1976 set off another round of the repression and the following spring Amin ordered the murder of two ministers and Anglican Archibishop Janani Luwum.
"It wasn't a case of quiet and active periods8" reflected one doctor. At best it was just less active periods."
"Fewer tribe except the Nubians and his own Kakwas got it," he added, "but the Acholi and Langi were singled out for punishment," apparently because of their alleged ties to Obote.
Less than a month before he was driven from Kampala, Amin sent killer squads from the dreaded State Research Bureau, which carried out most of the Atrocities, to the north central tribal areas with lists of victims to be executed, according to missionary sources.
Apart from the murders of surgeons, judges, ministers, religious leaders and other prominent members of the Ugandan elite, Amin is known to have ordered the destruction of entire villages.
Nakapelimen village in eastern Uganda 1975 lost an estimated 600 residents when Army troops took revenge for the deaths of two soldiers killed by a husband defending his wife from rape, refused Amin's orders to wear clothes in 1971 and as many as 20,000 may have been killed. Amin did nothing to alleviate their lot during a severe drought in the mid-1970s.
Lawyers refused to appear in court to defend men accused of criminal charges for fear of being arrested.
With the economy in ruins under Amin, a popular Ugandan saying was: "Everything is expensive - except life."
New Justice Minister Nabudere says, It's important for us to understand this experience. If Uganda is to become a democratic society, the people will have to be educated."
Buy many Ugandans are still reluctant to talk.
Murder and terror had become so commonplace that one man only incidental mentioned his older brother has been murdered only two weeks before, a second offhandedly mentioned the killing of his son-in-law and a third man never said that his son-in-law has been paralyzed by State Reaseach sBurea Forturers