agasfer (agasfer) wrote,
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A Ugandan Dictator's Escape From Justice

(I'll give you the state of statesmen, and the key to what motivates them)


Wednesday, August 6, 2003; Page A16


Ugandan dictator Idi Amin has much to answer for. It is unfortunate, as The Post's July 27 editorial stated, that "Idi Amin escaped the criminal trial that he deserved."

I was the last U.S. ambassador accredited to Idi Amin. As his killings continued, my wife and I were granted an appointment to speak with President Carter in 1977 regarding the issue. We indicated that we would urge Mr. Carter to seek an indictment against the Ugandan dictator as an international criminal.

But on our arrival in Washington, we were informed that our appointment with the president had been canceled and that we should see Andrew Young, then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

The Carter administration never pursued any plan to seek an indictment of Idi Amin. Later in 1977, when it was established that revenue from Ugandan coffee sales was supporting Idi Amin's death squads, I urged the president to issue an executive order prohibiting the purchase of Ugandan coffee. This would hurt Ugandans, but this had to be weighed against the despotic Idi Amin, who was killing thousands.

The Carter administration was reluctant to take any action. My wife and I presented our research to the late Sen. Frank Church. He introduced legislation that resulted in a congressional act to prohibit the purchase of Ugandan coffee.

Hesitation to recognize the evil of Idi Amin was characteristic of U.S. administrations. An exception came in late 1972 when Idi Amin gave a speech approving of Adolf Hitler's genocide against the Jews. I urged President Nixon to close the embassy, and, despite some opposition, he did.

THOMAS P. MELADY
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