From a new star of American journalism, a riveting murder mystery that reveals the forces roiling today's Africa
From Rwanda to Sierra Leone, African countries recovering from tyranny and war are facing an impossible dilemma: to overlook past atrocities for the sake of peace or to seek catharsis through tribunals and truth commissions. Uganda chose the path of forgetting: after Idi Amin's reign was overthrown, the new government opted for amnesty for his henchmen rather than prolonged conflict.
Ugandans tried to bury their history, but reminders of the truth were never far from view. A stray clue to the 1972 disappearance of Eliphaz Laki led his son to a shallow grave—and then to three executioners, among them Amin's chief of staff. Laki's discovery resulted in a trial that gave voice to a nation's past: as lawyers argued, tribes clashed, and Laki pressed for justice, the trial offered Ugandans a promise of the reckoning they had been so long denied.
For four years, Andrew Rice followed the trial, crossing Uganda to investigate Amin's legacy and the limits of reconciliation. At once a mystery, a historical accounting, and a portrait of modern Africa, The Teeth May Smile But the Heart Does Not Forget is above all an exploration of how -- and whether -- the past can be laid to rest.
One of Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2009
Pushcart Prize winning journalist Rice captures the horrors of Idi Amin's eight-year reign of terror over Uganda. At the core of the book is an unsolved disappearance: Eliphaz Laki, a local leader with ties to the anti-Amin opposition, vanished in the early days of the Amin regime. When his son, Duncan, uncovered a clue to his father's disappearance 30 years later, the investigation eventually implicated Amin's second-in-command, Maj. Gen. Yusuf Gowon. With Amin living out his years safely in Saudi Arabia, the trial of Gowon forced Uganda to confront its brutal past. Treating the Lakis' story as a microcosm of Uganda's own, the author weaves together the family's search for truth and justice with Uganda's history. From its intimate portrait of Eliphaz's grieving family to the wide-angle perspectives of the tumultuous postindependence years as Ugandans struggled to knit together a nation from the ethnically, linguistically and religiously diverse peoples within their colonial borders, the book recasts a familiar history in an entirely new light. Photos.