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Idi Amin Dada (c.1925 – 16 August 2003) was the military dictator and President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Amin joined the British colonial regiment, the King's African Rifles, in 1946, and eventually held the rank of Major General and Commander of the Ugandan Army. He took power in a military coup of January 1971, deposing Milton Obote.

Amin's rule was characterised by human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killing, nepotism, corruption and gross economic mismanagement. The number of people killed as a result of his regime is estimated by international observers and human rights groups to range from 100,000 to 500,000.

Notable backers of Amin included Muammar al-Gaddafi's Libyamarker, the Soviet Unionmarker and East Germanymarker, with early support for his regime coming from Great Britainmarker, Israelmarker, and Apartheid South Africa.

In 1975–1976, Amin became the Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity, a pan-Africanist group designed to promote solidarity of the African states. During the 1977–1979 period, Uganda was appointed to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. From 1977 to 1979, Amin titled himself as "His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Conqueror of the British Empire".

Dissent within Uganda and Amin's attempt to annex the Kageramarker province of Tanzania in 1978 led to the Uganda-Tanzania War and the demise of his regime. Amin fled first to Libyamarker, then to Saudi Arabiamarker, where he died in 2003.

Early life and military career

Amin never wrote an autobiography nor did he authorise any official written account of his life. There are discrepancies as to when and where he was born. Most biographical sources hold that he was born in either Kobokomarker or Kampalamarker around 1925. According to Fred Guweddeko, a researcher at Makerere University, Idi Amin was the son of Andreas Nyabire (1889–1976). Nyabire, a member of the Kakwa ethnic group, converted from Roman Catholicism to Islam in 1910 and changed his name to Amin Dada. Abandoned by his father, Idi Amin grew up with his mother's family. Guweddeko states that Amin's mother was called Assa Aatte (1904–1970), an ethnic Lugbara and a traditional herbalist, who treated members of Buganda royalty, among others. Amin joined an Islamic school in Bombomarker in 1941. After a few years he left school and did odd jobs before being recruited to the army by a British colonial army officer.

Chronology of Amin's military promotions
 
King's African Rifles
1946 Joins King's African Rifles
1947 Private
1952 Corporal
1954 Effendi (Warrant Officer)
1961 First Ugandan Commissioned Officer, Lieutenant
 
Uganda Army
1962 Captain
1963 Major
1964 Deputy Commander of the Army
1965 Colonel, Commander of the Army
1968 Major General
1971 Head of State

Chairman of the Defence Council

Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces

Army Chief of Staff and Chief of Air Staff
1975 Field Marshal


Colonial British Army

Amin joined the King's African Rifles (KAR) of the British Colonial Army in 1946 as an assistant cook. He claimed he was forced to join the Army during World War II and that he served in the Burma Campaign, but records indicate he was first enlisted after the war was concluded. He was transferred to Kenya for infantry service as a private in 1947 and served in the 21st KAR infantry battalion in Gilgil, Kenyamarker, until 1949. That year, his unit was deployed to Somaliamarker to fight the Somali Shifta rebels. In 1952 his brigade was deployed against the Mau Mau rebels in Kenya. He was promoted to corporal the same year, then to sergeant in 1953.

In 1954 Amin was made effendi (warrant officer), the highest rank possible for a Black African in the colonial British Army of that time. Amin returned to Uganda the same year and in 1961 he was promoted to lieutenant, becoming one of the first two Ugandans to become commissioned officers. He was then assigned to quell the cattle rustling between Uganda's Karamojong and Kenya's Turkana nomads. In 1962 he was promoted to captain and then, in 1963, to major. The following year, he was appointed Deputy Commander of the Army.

Amin was an active athlete during his time in the army. 193 cm (6 ft 4 in) and powerfully built, he was the Ugandan light heavyweight boxing champion from 1951 to 1960, as well as a swimmer. Idi Amin was also a formidable rugby forward. The British Lions nearly played Amin on their 1955 tour of South Africa, when he was selected as a reserve for the East Africa XV. Amin did not however, get fielded during the game. One officer said of him: "Idi Amin is a splendid type and a good (rugby) player, but virtually bone from the neck up, and needs things explained in words of one letter".

Army commander

In 1965 Prime Minister Milton Obote and Amin were implicated in a deal to smuggle ivory and gold into Uganda from the Democratic Republic of the Congomarker. The deal, as later alleged by General Nicholas Olenga, an associate of the former Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba, was part of an arrangement to help troops opposed to the Congolese government trade ivory and gold for arms supplies secretly smuggled to them by Amin. In 1966, Parliament demanded an investigation. Obote imposed a new constitution abolishing the ceremonial presidency held by Kabaka (King) Edward Mutesa II of Buganda, and declared himself executive president. He promoted Amin to colonel and army commander. Amin led an attack on the Kabaka's palace and forced Mutesa into exile to the United Kingdom, where he remained until his death in 1969.

Amin began recruiting members of Kakwa, Lugbara, Nubian and other ethnic groups from the West Nile area bordering Sudanmarker. The Nubians had been residents in Uganda since the early 20th century, having come from Sudan to serve the colonial army. In Uganda, Nubians were commonly perceived as Sudanesemarker foreigners and erroneously referred to as Anyanya (Anyanya were southern Sudanese rebels of the First Sudanese Civil War and were not involved in Uganda). Because many ethnic groups in northern Uganda inhabit both Uganda and Sudan, allegations persist that Amin's army consisted substantially of Sudanese soldiers.

Seizure of power

Eventually, a rift developed between Amin and Obote, worsened by the support Amin had built within the army by recruiting from the West Nile region, his involvement in operations to support the rebellion in southern Sudan, and an attempt on Obote's life in 1969. In October 1970, Obote himself took control of the armed forces, reducing Amin from his months-old post of commander of all the armed forces to that of commander of the army.

Having learned that Obote was planning to arrest him for misappropriating army funds, Amin seized power in a military coup on 25 January 1971, while Obote was attending a Commonwealth summit meeting in Singaporemarker. Troops loyal to Amin sealed off Entebbe International Airportmarker, the main artery into Uganda, and took Kampala. Soldiers surrounded Obote's residence and blocked major roads. A broadcast on Radio Uganda accused Obote's government of corruption and preferential treatment of the Lango region. Cheering crowds were reported in the streets of Kampala after the radio broadcast. Amin announced that he was a soldier, not a politician, and that the military government would remain only as a caretaker regime until new elections, which would be announced as soon as the situation was normalised. He promised to release all political prisoners.

Amin was welcomed both within Uganda and by the international community . He gave former king and president Mutesa (who had died in exile) a state burial in April 1971, freed many political prisoners, and reiterated his promise to hold free and fair elections to return the country to democratic rule in the shortest period possible.

Presidency

Establishment of military rule

On 2 February 1971, one week after the coup, Amin declared himself President of Uganda, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Army Chief of Staff and Chief of Air Staff. He announced that he was suspending certain provisions of the Ugandan constitution and soon instituted an Advisory Defence Council composed of military officers, with himself as the chairman. Amin placed military tribunals above the system of civil law, appointed soldiers to top government posts and parastatal agencies, and informed the newly inducted civilian cabinet ministers that they would be subject to military discipline. Amin renamed the presidential lodge in Kampala from Government House to "The Command Post". He disbanded the General Service Unit (GSU), an intelligence agency created by the previous government, and replaced it with the State Research Bureau (SRB). SRB headquarters at the Kampala suburb of Nakasero became the scene of torture and executions over the next few years. Other agencies used to root out political dissent included the military police and the Public Safety Unit (PSU).

Obote took refuge in Tanzania, having been offered sanctuary there by Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere. He was soon joined by 20,000 Ugandan refugees fleeing Amin. In 1972, the exiles attempted to regain the country through a poorly organized coup attempt, without success.

Persecution of ethnic and other groups

Amin retaliated against the attempted invasion by Ugandan exiles in 1972 by purging the army of Obote supporters, predominantly those from the Acholi and Lango ethnic groups. In July 1971, Lango and Acholi soldiers were massacred in the Jinjamarker and Mbararamarker Barracks, and by early 1972, some 5,000 Acholi and Lango soldiers, and at least twice as many civilians, had disappeared. The victims soon came to include members of other ethnic groups, religious leaders, journalists, senior bureaucrats, judges, lawyers, students and intellectuals, criminal suspects, and foreign nationals. In this atmosphere of violence, many other people were killed for criminal motives or simply at will. Bodies floated on the River Nile in quantities sufficient to clog the Owen Falls Hydro-Electric Dammarker in Jinja on at least one occasion.

The killings, motivated by ethnic, political and financial factors, continued throughout Amin's eight-year reign. The exact number of people killed is unknown. The International Commission of Jurists estimated the death toll at no less than 80,000 and more likely around 300,000. An estimate compiled by exile organizations with the help of Amnesty International puts the number killed at 500,000. Among the most prominent people killed were Benedicto Kiwanuka, the former prime minister and later chief justice; Janani Luwum, the Anglican archbishop; Joseph Mubiru, the former governor of the Central Bank; Frank Kalimuzo, the vice chancellor of Makerere University; Byron Kawadwa, a prominent playwright; and two of Amin's own cabinet ministers, Erinayo Wilson Oryema and Charles Oboth Ofumbi.

In August 1972, Amin declared what he called an "economic war", a set of policies that included the expropriation of properties owned by Asians and Europeans. Uganda's 80,000 Asians were mostly from the Indian subcontinent and born in the country, their ancestors having come to Uganda when the country was still a British colony. Many owned businesses, including large-scale enterprises, that formed the backbone of the Ugandan economy. On 4 August 1972, Amin issued a decree ordering the expulsion of the 60,000 Asians who were not Ugandan citizens (most of them held British passports). This was later amended to include all 80,000 Asians, with the exception of professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and teachers. A plurality of the Asians with British passports, around 30,000, emigrated to Britain. Others went to Australia, Canadamarker, Indiamarker, Pakistanmarker, Swedenmarker, and the U.S.marker Amin expropriated businesses and properties belonging to the Asians and handed them over to his supporters. The businesses were mismanaged, and industries collapsed from lack of maintenance. This proved disastrous for the already declining economy.

In 1977, Henry Kyemba, Amin's health minister and a former official of the first Obote regime, defected and resettled in Britain. Kyemba wrote and published A State of Blood, the first insider exposé of Amin's rule.

International relations

See also: Foreign relations of Uganda
Following the expulsion of Ugandan Asians in 1972, most of whom were of Indian descent, Indiamarker severed diplomatic relations with Uganda. The same year, as part of his "economic war", Amin broke diplomatic ties with Britain and nationalised 85 British-owned businesses.

That same year, relations with Israel soured. Although Israel had previously supplied Uganda with arms, in 1972 Amin expelled Israelimarker military advisers and turned to Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libyamarker and the Soviet Unionmarker for support. Amin became an outspoken critic of Israel. In the documentary film General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait, he discussed his plans for war against Israel, using paratroops, bombers and suicide squadrons.Amin later stated that Hitler "was right to burn six million Jews".

In 1973, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Patrick Melady recommended that the United States reduce its presence in Uganda. Melady described Amin's regime as "racist, erratic and unpredictable, brutal, inept, bellicose, irrational, ridiculous, and militaristic". Accordingly, the United States closed its embassy in Kampalamarker.

In June 1976, Amin allowed an Air France airliner hijacked by two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - External Operations (PFLP-EO) and two members of the Germanmarker Revolutionäre Zellen to land at Entebbe Airportmarker. There, the hijackers were joined by three more. Soon after, 156 hostages who did not hold Israeli passports were released and flown to safety, while 83 Jews and Israeli citizens, as well as 20 others who refused to abandon them, continued to be held hostage. In the subsequent Israeli rescue operation, codenamed Operation Thunderbolt (popularly known as Operation Entebbe), nearly all of the hostages were freed. Three hostages died and 10 were wounded; six hijackers, 45 Ugandan soldiers, and one Israeli soldier, Yoni Netanyahu, were killed. This incident further soured Uganda's international relations, leading Britain to close its High Commission in Uganda.

Uganda under Amin embarked on a large military build-up, which raised concerns in Kenyamarker. Early in June 1975, Kenyan officials impounded a large convoy of Sovietmarker-made arms en route to Uganda at the port of Mombasamarker. Tension between Uganda and Kenya reached its climax in February 1976 when Amin announced that he would investigate the possibility that parts of southern Sudanmarker and western and central Kenya, up to within of Nairobimarker, were historically a part of colonial Uganda. The Kenyan Government responded with a stern statement that Kenya would not part with "a single inch of territory". Amin backed down after the Kenyan army deployed troops and armored personnel carriers along the Kenya-Uganda border.

Libyanmarker military dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi backed Amin and the Soviet Unionmarker became Amin's largest arms supplier.

East Germanymarker was involved in the General Service Unit and the State Research Bureau, the two agencies which were most notorious for terror. During the Tanzanian invasion in 1979 East Germany attempted to remove evidence about its involvement.

Erratic behaviour and media portrayal

Over time, Amin became more erratic and outspoken. In 1977, after Britain had broken diplomatic relations with his regime, Amin declared he had beaten the British, and conferred on himself the decoration of CBE (Conqueror of the British Empire). Radio Uganda then read out the whole of his new title: "His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, CBE." In 1971, Amin and Zairemarker's president Mobutu Sese Seko changed the names of Lake Albertmarker and Lake Edwardmarker to Lake Mobutu Sese Seko and Lake Idi Amin Dada, respectively.

Amin became the subject of rumours and myths, including a widespread belief that he was a cannibal. Some of the unsubstantiated rumours, such as the mutilation of one of his wives, were spread and popularised by the 1980 film Rise and Fall of Idi Amin and alluded to in the film The Last King of Scotland in 2006.

During Amin's reign, popular media outside of Uganda often portrayed him as an essentially comic figure. In a 1977 assessment typical of the time, a Time magazine article described him as a "killer and clown, big-hearted buffoon and strutting martinet". For focusing on Amin's excessive tastes and self-aggrandizing eccentricities, the foreign media was often criticized for downplaying or excusing his murderous behavior. Other commentators even suggested that Amin had deliberately cultivated his reputation in the foreign media as an easily-parodied buffoon in order to defuse international concern over his administration of Uganda.

Deposition and exile

See also: Uganda-Tanzania War
By 1978, the number of Amin's close associates had shrunk significantly, and he faced increasing dissent from within Uganda. After the killings of Luwum and ministers Oryema and Oboth Ofumbi in 1977, several of Amin's ministers defected or fled to exile. Later that year, after Amin's vice president, General Mustafa Adrisi, was injured in a car accident, troops loyal to him mutinied. Amin sent troops against the mutineers, some of whom had fled across the Tanzanian border. Amin accused Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere of waging war against Uganda, ordered the invasion of Tanzanian territory, and formally annexed a section of the Kagera Regionmarker across the boundary.

Nyerere mobilized the Tanzania People's Defence Force and counterattacked, joined by several groups of Ugandan exiles who had united as the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). Amin's army retreated steadily, and despite military help from Libyamarker's Muammar al-Gaddafi, he was forced to flee on 11 April 1979 when Kampala was captured. He escaped first to Libya and ultimately settled in Saudi Arabiamarker where the Saudi royal family paid him a generous wage in return for his staying out of politics. Having covered the war for the BBC as chief Africa correspondent, in 1980 Brian Barron, in partnership with cameraman Mohammed Amin of Visnews in Nairobimarker, located Amin and secured the first interview with him since his deposition.

Amin held that Uganda needed him and never expressed remorse for the nature of his regime. In 1989, he attempted to return to Uganda, apparently to lead an armed group organised by Colonel Juma Oris. He reached Kinshasamarker, Zairemarker (now the Democratic Republic of the Congomarker), before Zairian President Mobutu forced him to return to Saudi Arabia.

Amin's death

On 20 July 2003, one of Amin's wives, Madina, reported that he was in a coma and near death at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddahmarker, Saudi Arabiamarker. She pleaded with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to allow him to return to die in Uganda. Museveni replied that Amin would have to "answer for his sins the moment he was brought back." Amin died in Saudi Arabia on 16 August 2003. He was buried in Ruwais Cemetery in Jeddah; according to the Associated Press's sources, few attended the funeral ceremony.

Family and associates

A polygamist, Idi Amin married at least six women, three of whom he divorced. He married his first and second wives, Malyamu and Kay, in 1966. The next year, he married Nora and then Nalongo Madina in 1972. On 26 March 1974, he announced on Radio Uganda that he had divorced Malyamu, Nora and Kay. Malyamu was arrested in Tororomarker on the Kenyan border in April 1974 and accused of attempting to smuggle a bolt of fabric into Kenya. She later moved to Londonmarker. Kay died on 13 August 1974, reportedly from an attempted surgical abortion performed by her lover Dr. Mbalu Mukasa (who himself committed suicide). Her body was found dismembered. In August 1975, during the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit meeting in Kampala, Amin married Sarah Kyolaba. Sarah's boyfriend, whom she was living with before she met Amin, vanished and was never heard from again. According to The Monitor, Amin married again a few months before his death in 2003.

Sources differ widely on the number of children Amin fathered; most say that he had 30 to 45. Until 2003, Taban Amin, Idi Amin's eldest son, was the leader of West Nile Bank Front (WNBF), a rebel group opposed to the government of Yoweri Museveni. In 2005, he was offered amnesty by Museveni, and in 2006, he was appointed Deputy Director General of the Internal Security Organisation. Another of Amin’s sons, Haji Ali Amin, ran for election as Chairman (i.e. mayor) of Njeru Town Council in 2002 but was not elected. In early 2007, the award-winning film The Last King of Scotland prompted one of his sons, Jaffar Amin, to speak out in his father's defense. Jaffar Amin said he was writing a book to rehabilitate his father's reputation.

On 3 August 2007, Faisal Wangita, one of Amin's sons, was convicted for playing a role in a murder in London.

Among Amin's closest associates was the British-born Bob Astles, who is considered by many to have been a malign influence, and by others as a moderating presence. Isaac Malyamungu was an instrumental affiliate and one of the more feared officers in Amin's army.

Portrayal in media and literature

Film dramatisations



Documentaries



Books



Notes

  • A  Many sources, like Encyclopædia Britannica, Encarta and the Columbia Encyclopedia, hold that Amin was born in Koboko or Kampala circa 1925, and that the exact date of his birth is unknown. Researcher Fred Guweddeko claimed that Amin was born on 17 May 1928, but that is disputed. The only certainty is that Amin was born some time during the mid-1920s.
  • B  He conferred a doctorate of law on himself from Makerere University.
  • C  The Victorious Cross (VC) was a medal made to emulate the British Victoria Cross.
  • D  According to Henry Kyema and the African Studies Review, Idi Amin had 34 children. Some sources say Amin claimed to have fathered 32 children. A report in The Monitor says he was survived by 45 left children, while another in the BBC gives the figure of 54.


Footnotes

  1. Gareth M. Winrow: The foreign policy of the GDR in Africa, p. 141
  2. Cain, Nick & Growden, Greg "Chapter 21: Ten Peculiar Facts about Rugby" in Rugby Union for Dummies (2nd Edition), p294 (pub: John Wiley and Sons, Chichester, England) ISBN 978-0-470-03537-5
  3. Jamison, M. Idi Amin and Uganda: An Annotated Bibliography, Greenwood Press, 1992, p.155-6
  4. End for Amin the executioner The Sun-Herald August 17, 2003
  5. Lloyd, Lorna (2007) p.239
  6. African Studies Review (1982) p.63


References



External links




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