The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget: Murder and Memory in Uganda Hardcover – May 26 2009
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—Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland
—Peter Beinart, author of The Good Fight
—Matthew Green, author of The Wizard of the Nile
—Robert Guest, former Africa editor of The Economist and author of The Shackled Continent
About the Author
Andrew Rice has written about Africa for The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and The Economist, among other publications. His article "The Book of Wilson," published in The Paris Review, received a Pushcart Prize. He spent several years in Uganda as a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs and currently lives in Brooklyn.
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A beautiful country with decent people is emerging from a seven-year-fog during which its rulers claimed a mandate from God, wiretapped neighbors, tortured perceived enemies, suspended civil liberties, and invaded a non-threatening state. Later, reports sink in of how civilians and soldiers were killed on our behalf, but for reasons that remain obscure to this day. Some demand deposed leaders face justice. Others say accountability endangers the foundation of national security. Hmmm...Stop if this sounds familiar.
The Teeth May Smile is set in Uganda's past, a place and time few of us knew, much less forgot. It is palpably Africa, with its Maribou Storks perched on courthouses. Yet within that era and place Rice reconstructs an all-too-familiar state of fear and anxiety, revealing how easy and tempting it is for someone to let our voice go silent, point our finger at others, shrug at wrongdoing, or nod when instructed by opinion leaders that "you know, sometimes it's better to just keep walking."
Duncan Laki refused to keep walking. The story's protagonist stood fast in his quest for the truth and justice, however painful or destabilizing those words might prove. And Mr. Rice had the savvy journalistic instincts to stand behind him - never judging, but incessantly taking notes -- over seven years, from courtroom to banana farm to graveside.
It would be comforting to describe Rice as merely "a superb Africa-based foreign correspondent," or label this book as "casting a fascinating light on Uganda." He is, and it does. But both go deeper. Rice serves a gripping narrative nonfiction story that manages effortlessly to strip away the superficial gauze of tribe, race, party, nationality, and geography.
The Teeth May Smile holds a mirror up to the fragility of human nature, leaving the quiet courage of men like Laki, both son and father, to remind us where we might have buried our moral compass during our own national period of uncertainty, and what layers we might have to dig through to one day get it back.
A Commission of Inquiry Into Violations of Human Rights was set up to create a record of past atrocities and recommend prosecutions, but the government ran out of enthusiasm before the Commission's task was complete, and the Commission's findings simply sit on shelves gathering dust. However, through his own investigations Duncan Laki discovered the truth behind the disappearance of his father Eliphaz Laki, and he attempted to bring to justice Idi Amin's henchmen who had murdered him.
The book provides an extremely interesting and readable account of Eliphaz Laki's activities, Duncan's investigations, and the trial. Should people who have committed atrocities in the past be brought to justice, or should sleeping dogs be allowed to lie? Most Ugandans would prefer to forgive and move on, but violent offenders seem to take advantage of that attitude to commit atrocities with impunity.
So sit down with some ginger tea and lean back, read and enjoy the moment even if it's a little painful to read about others misfortunes, but this is the world we live in. Please don't forget those who made it as we live today. That's maybe the main purpose of the writer. I don't know but it could been so.