(Notes by Nishta Bahtia, photos by Fred Beutler except where noted.)
President Greg called the meeting to order at 12:30, we started with God Bless America.
With a nod to the day’s speaker and the subject, Eric Lipson led with an invocation for which he chose a speech Haile Selassie of Ethiopia gave before the United Nations on October 4,1963. It pertained to the question of racial discrimination: “that until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; that until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation; that until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; . . . until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil.”
The music team, Donald Duquette and Joan Knoertzer, adapted The Happy Wanderer, Singin’ in The Rain, and Are You Sleeping (changed to Are You Leaving) to bid farewell to John Ackenhusen and Ruthie who are moving to Seattle. They both will be missed.
President Greg thanked the meeting facilitators and greeters; in addition to the ones mentioned above, they were: Steve Schram, Jim Egerdal, Lauren Heinonen, Karen Gladney, Dallas Dort, Rick Ingram, Steve Kesler, Dan Romanchik, Dale Ausherman, and our anonymous Sargeant at Arms.
Guests were Greg Ross, a visiting Rotarian from Detroit and Don Redding, who manages the First Presbyterian volunteer program for Habitat for Humanity.
Pres. Greg announced the upcoming birthdays of: Dave Sarns, Toni Gupta, Ed Hoffman, Tom Kuslikis, Grant Peterson, and Jim Kosteva.
He then called for a moment of silence for John Debbink who died on March 20th.
Two additional members, Judith Lynch-Sauer and Marlena Studer, from the Spring Membership Class, were introduced: Rosemarie Rowney introduced Judith Lynch-Sauer, who has retired from the University of Michigan where she was on the faculty of the School of Nursing and Director of the Office of Student Affairs. Marlena Studer was introduced by Norma Sarkar. Marlena is currently a realtor. She was the CEO of Studer Enterprises, a wine distribution business which she sold in 2011.
Past President Maurita Holland took the podium to share with us her Rotary encounters while on a trip to New Zealand and Australia. There were some great slides of Rotary projects in both countries. She presented a flag, featuring a sulfur geyser and a rainbow trout, from the Rotorua club.
Mel Drum and Maurita jointly presented a Distinguished Service Award to Steve Colson, CEO of Switchback. Switchback is the company that provided technical support, training, storage, and troubleshooting to our Club for a number of years so that our records could be consolidated and stored in one place for posterity. Steve’s wife, Kathy, was introduced as well.
Past president Karen Kerry introduced the Rotary Presidential trivia quiz to set the record straight, honor, and bid farewell to John Ackenhusen. There were ten questions; one table won the prize, Ingrid Sheldon’s famous apple pie, for getting nine correct answers.
Dennis Powers introduced our speaker, Dr. Derek Peterson whose presentation focused on Uganda. Dennis noted that Britain ruled Uganda as a protectorate from 1894 until 1962 when Uganda gained its independence. Idi Amin seized power in a military coup in 1971. He ruled with an iron hand from 1971 to 1979.
Notes from presentation by Derek Peterson
The Unseen Archive of Idi Amin, Photographs from the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation
Over the course of his eight years as president of Uganda Idi Amin was the subject of hundreds of thousands of photographs. These were taken by a dedicated team of photographers. It was a perilous job and could mean death as was the case of one government photographer—Jimmy Parma—who was executed by Amin’s men.
The photos had been considered lost for decades, until in 2015 Dr. Peterson and colleagues from the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (U.B.C.) uncovered a filing cabinet full of thousands of photographic negatives. Each envelope containing 70,000 negatives was carefully labeled. As far as anyone knows, these are unseen archives until now.
In January 2018 the U.B.C. launched a project to digitize this important collection. With funding and technical support from the University of Michigan, the University of Western Australia, and Makerere University, 25,000 images to date have been archived.
Dr. Peterson and his colleagues are organizing an exhibition at the Uganda Museum, due to open on May 18th this year. ‘The Unseen Archive of Idi Amin’ consists of 200 photographs, video of photos, and digitized recordings. At the core of this project is a big mystery. Why—if they were never printed, published, or seen by a Ugandan audience—were these photographs taken? This is a fundamental question that Dr. Peterson and his colleagues have attempted to answer.
As background, in his view, because the most basic infrastructures of civic life were in short supply in Uganda, the Amin government did not have the material capacity to control the lives of Uganda’s people.
The regime worked, instead, by cultivating and directing the enthusiasms of Uganda’s people to mundane matters—cleanliness of homes, growing of cotton, planting of trees. These were taken out of householders’ hands and made into programmatic activities, in which there were standards, guidelines, and evaluation. Everywhere there were competitions, as ordinary administrative activities were made into contests around which people were made to mobilize. For some, this created a demand on people’s time and energy. In others, it generated a self-righteous sense of vocation, a call to duty. The campaigns contained very specific guidance and were conducted as though the country were a playing field where each parish was in competition.
In 1972 Uganda’s Asian community was expelled from the country. It was an exercise in racial self-assertion. It was the time of professionalism in commercial transactions, hard work, integrity, and honesty.
The archived photos were taken, presumably, to document the Amin state’s successes.
Dr. Peterson is putting together the exhibit of 200 photos in the Uganda Museum that was established in colonial times and is housed in a building from1950. It will begin with a timeline that represents the different dimensions, celebration and horror, in which Ugandans experienced the decade of Amin. It is the way to show that alongside the ceremony, idealism, and political and cultural activity of the 1970s there was also murder, violence, and death organized by the state. An estimated 300,000 died at the hands of men serving Amin’s government.
As an example: For June 1973, the top register of the timeline will have a photo of Idi Amin with Muammar Gaddafi, the middle will be a photo of President Amin at Lake Albert, the bottom register will be photos of the execution of Sergeant Baru, shot in public by Uganda Army soldiers for refusal to follow orders.
There will also be thematic displays in several rooms showing aspects of the Amin regime: Economic War, the program of black economic uplift launched after Amin expelled Uganda’s Asian community; photos of “crime and punishment”, focus on the
Economic Crimes Tribunal; the final room in the Museum will focus on the cultural life of the 1970, revival of traditional performing arts to prove the regime’s anti-colonial credentials.
The exhibition is a work in progress. It is a first step toward a larger, fully developed exhibition about the experience of Ugandans during the 1970s, history that has been papered over by the current government. It is hoped the exhibition will open up conversations among Ugandans about the public role of a history that has been prematurely closed.