Idi Amin

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Idi Amin

Idi Amin on a ten-shilling note<small/>

In office
1971 – 1979
Preceded by Milton Obote
Succeeded by Yusufu Lule

Born c. 1924, Koboko, West Nile Province or
1928-05-17, Kampala
Died 2003-08-16
Saudi Arabia
Religion Islam

Idi Amin Dada (c. 192416 August 2003) was an army officer and President of Uganda (1971–1979). His tenure witnessed much sectarian violence, including the persecution of the Acholi, Lango, Indian and other ethnic groups as well as Hindus and Christians in Uganda. The death toll during Amin's regime will never be accurately known. An estimate from the International Commission of Jurists is that it was not less than 80,000 and more likely around 300,000. Another estimate, compiled by exile organizations with the help of Amnesty International, put the number killed at 500,000.<ref name=guardian_18092003>"Idi Amin", The Guardian, 2003-08-18</ref>

He gave himself the title "His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular."<ref name=AboutBio>"Biography: Idi Amin Dada" (</ref>


[edit] Early life

Idi Amin never wrote an autobiography or authorised any to be written. There is some disagreement as to when and where he was born. Biographical sources usually hold that he was born in Koboko, West Nile Province, in 1924 or 1925.<ref name="britannica">Encyclopædia Britannica: Idi Amin</ref> According to the Ugandan researcher Fred Guweddeko of Makerere University, Idi Amin was born Idi Awo-Ongo Angoo in Kampala on 17 May 1928, fathered by Andreas Nyabire (1889–1976) – an ethnic Kakwa and Catholic who converted to Islam in 1910 and changed his name to Amin Dada.<ref name="monitor_01012004">"Rejected then taken in by dad; a timeline", The Monitor, 2004-03-01</ref> Other sources say that Dada was not his father's name, but a nickname Amin acquired later.<ref name="Nation_12092003">"'Dada' always rubbed Kenya the wrong way", Sunday Nation, 2003-08-17</ref>

Abandoned by his father, Idi Amin grew up with his maternal family. His mother, according to Guweddeko, was called Assa Aatte (1904–1970), an ethnic Lugbara and a traditional herbalist who among others treated members of Buganda royalty. He joined an Islamic school in Bombo in 1941, where he excelled in reciting the Qur'an. After a few years he left the school, and did odd jobs before being recruited to the army by a British colonial army officer.

[edit] Military career

Amin joined the King's African Rifles (KAR) of the British colonial army in 1946 as a laundry and kitchen army staff as he trained until 1947 when as a private he transferred to Kenya for infantry service. Amin claimed to have served with the KAR regiment in the Burma Campaign during World War II, but this is disputed as records indicate he was first enlisted after the war was concluded.<ref name=guardian_18092003/><ref>Why Didn't Amin Rot and Die in Jail?, Stratagy Page, August 20, 2003</ref>

He served in the 21st KAR infantry brigade at Gilgil, Kenya, until 1949 when his unit was deployed in Somalia to fight the Shifta (Somali for bandit) who were raiding cattle.<ref name="ContWldHist">Jan Palmowski, Dictionary of Contemporary World History: From 1900 to the present day. Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 2003 (ISBN 0198605390)</ref> In 1952 his battalion was deployed against the Mau Mau. He was promoted to corporal the same year, then to sergeant in 1953.<ref name=monitor_01012004/>

In 1954, Amin was made effendi (warrant officer), the highest rank possible for a Black African in the colonial British army. Disputably, his nickname "Dada" was acquired while serving in Kenya; every time he was caught with a woman in his tent, he pleaded that she was his "dada" (Swahili for sister), in order to be let off the hook by his commanders.<ref name="Nation_12092003" />

Amin returned to Uganda in 1954. In 1961, with Ugandan independence two years away, he became one of the first two Ugandans to become commissioned officers with the rank of Lieutenant. He was then assigned to quell the cattle rustling between Uganda’s Karamojong and Kenya’s Turkana nomads. It is alleged that in order to disarm the Karamojong and Turkana, Idi Amin's platoon threatened to cut off their penises unless they revealed where they had hidden their spears.

During his time in the army, Amin exercised his physical strength as a sportsman, and held Uganda's light heavyweight boxing championship from 1951 to 1960.<ref name=AboutBio/>

[edit] Promotion in the military

After independence in October 1962, Milton Obote, Uganda's first prime minister, rewarded Idi Amin for his loyalty by promoting him to captain in 1963 and deputy commander of the army in 1964.

In 1965, Obote and Amin were implicated in a deal to smuggle gold, coffee, and ivory out of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A parliamentary investigation demanded by President Mutesa (also the Kabaka (King) of Buganda), put Obote on the defensive.

In 1966, Obote promoted Amin to general and commander of the Ugandan army, had five ministers arrested, suspended the 1962 constitution, and declared himself the new president. The same year Mutesa was forced into exile in Britain where he remained until his death in 1969.

Amin began recruiting members of Kakwa, Lugbara and other ethnic groups from the West Nile area bordering Sudan. Nubians were also recruited into the army. The Nubians in question had been resident in Uganda since the early 20th century, having been brought from Sudan to serve the colonial army. In Uganda, Nubians were commonly perceived as Sudanese foreigners, and erroneously referred to as Anyanya (Anyanya were southern Sudanese rebels of the First Sudanese Civil War and were not involved in Uganda). Allegations still persist that Idi Amin's army consisted substantially of Sudanese soldiers – a misconception resulting from the reality that many ethnic groups in Northern Uganda inhabit both Uganda and Sudan.<ref name="Anyanya">Nantulya Paul, Exclusion, Identity and Armed Conflict: A Historical Survey of the Politics of Confrontation in Uganda with Specific Reference to the Independence Era, (2001) Konrad Adenauer Stiftung</ref>

[edit] Seizure of power

After hearing that Obote was planning to arrest him for misappropriating army funds, he seized power in a coup on 25 January 1971, when Obote was attending a Commonwealth summit meeting in Singapore.

Idi Amin was initially welcomed both within Uganda and by the international community. In an internal memo, the British Foreign Office described him as "A splendid type and a good football player." He gave former king and president Mutesa, who had died in exile, a state burial in April, 1971, freed many political prisoners, and disbanded the secret police, the General Service Unit.

[edit] Amin’s rule

He promised to hold elections within months. Shortly after taking power, however, Amin established the so-called "State Research Bureau," which were actually his own brand of death squads to hunt down and murder Obote's supporters as well as much of the intelligentsia, whom he distrusted. Military leaders who had not supported the coup were executed, many by beheading.

Obote took refuge in Tanzania, from where he attempted to regain the country through a military invasion in September, 1972, without success. Obote supporters within the Ugandan army, mainly from the Acholi and Lango tribes, were also involved in the invasion. Amin retaliated by bombing Tanzanian towns, and purging the army of Acholi and Lango officers. The ethnic violence grew to include the whole of the army, and then Ugandan civilians. As the violence increased, Amin became more and more paranoid, fearing a coup within his own government. The Nile Mansions Hotel in Kampala became infamous as Amin's interrogation and torture centre.

On 4 August 1972, Amin gave Uganda's 50,000 Asians (mostly Indians of Gujarati origin) 90 days to leave the country, following an alleged dream in which, he claimed, God told him to expel them. Their expulsion resulted in a significant decline in Uganda's Hindu and Muslim population.[1] Many Asians owned big businesses in Uganda and many Indians were born in the country, their ancestors having come from India to Uganda when the country was still a British colony. Those who remained were deported from the cities to the countryside, although most Asians were granted asylum in the United Kingdom.[2] Ugandan soldiers during this period engaged in theft and violence against the Asians with impunity.

Also in 1972, Amin severed diplomatic relations with Israel while turning to Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya as well as the Soviet Union for support.

In 1973, the United States closed its embassy in Kampala and in 1976 the United Kingdom closed its High Commission in Uganda.

Uganda under Amin had embarked on a large military buildup, which raised concerns in Nairobi. Early in June 1975, Kenyan officials impounded a large convoy of Soviet-made arms en route to Uganda at Mombasa port.

The tension reached climax in February of 1976 when President Amin suddenly announced that he would investigate the possibility that large parts of southern Sudan and western and central Kenya, up to within 32 km of Nairobi, were historically a part of colonial Uganda. The Kenyan government response came two days later in a stern statement that said Kenya would not part with "a single inch of territory". Amin finally backed down after the Kenyan army deployed troops and armoured personnel carriers in defensive positions along the Kenya-Uganda border.

Amin also had strong ties to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). The Israeli embassy was offered to them as headquarters; and Flight 139, the Air France Airbus hijacked from Athens on 27 June 1976, was invited by Amin to stop at Entebbe International Airport in the city of Entebbe, 32 km from Kampala. The hijackers demanded the release of 53 PLO and Red Army Faction prisoners in return for the 256 hostages and were assisted by Amin's troops. Amin visited the hostages more than once. The hijackers agreed to the release of non-Jewish and non-Israeli passengers and a transport plane, arranged by Amin, had taken off and landed in Europe. The Israeli and Jewish hostages stayed behind. At midnight on 3 July 1976, Israeli commandos attacked the airport and freed all but two of the hostages. (One was killed by the Israeli forces, while another, 75-year-old Dora Bloch, who had been taken to a hospital before the rescue, was killed under Amin's direct orders by two army officers after the hostage rescue.) In the operation, Uganda's air force was badly crippled as its fighter jets were destroyed.

Further information: Operation Entebbe

The success of the Israeli operation largely contributed to his downfall, while increased resistance and sabotage operations crippled the nation during his final years.[citation needed] Partly on the basis of his "visions" and erratic behaviour, Idi Amin is often believed to have suffered from neurosyphilis: Deborah Hayden makes the case for this hypothesis in her Pox: Genius, Madness and the Mysteries of Syphilis.

Among the most prominent people killed by Idi Amin 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; and Byron Kawadwa, a prominent playwright. Amin also murdered an Irish missionary.

As the years went on, Amin became increasingly erratic and outspoken. He had his tunics specially lengthened so that he could wear many World War II medals, including the Military Cross and Victoria Cross. He granted himself a number of titles, including "King of Scotland".

In 1977, after Britain broke 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 Al-Hadji Field Marshal Dr. Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, CBE, Life President of the Republic of Uganda"<ref name="guardian_18092003" />).

Amin was fond of racing cars (of which he owned several), boxing, and Disney cartoons. Many foreign journalists considered him a somewhat comical and eccentric figure; he was widely caricatured in the west as a murderous buffoon. There have also been rumours that Amin was a cannibal, although this has never been proven.

In 1977, however, the first in-depth and from-the-inside expose of how murderous Amin's rule actually was became known. Henry Kyemba, Amin's Health Minister and a former official of the first Obote regime, had used travel for a World Health Organisation conference as a means of defecting after coming to fear for his own safety in Uganda. Resettled in Britain, Kyemba wrote and published A State of Blood, an account of Amin and his rule that destroyed any lingering comic or eccentric image still harboured about Amin.

[edit] Deposition and exile

See also: Uganda-Tanzania War

In October 1978, Amin ordered the invasion of Tanzania while at the same time attempting to cover up an army mutiny. With the help of Libyan troops, Amin tried to annex the northern Tanzanian province of Kagera. Tanzania, under President Julius Nyerere, declared war on Uganda, then began a counterattack, enlisting the country's population of Ugandan exiles.

On 11 April 1979, Amin was forced to flee the capital, Kampala, when the Tanzanian army, aided by Ugandan exiles who had united as the Uganda National Liberation Army, First siege of Kampala, took the city. Amin fled to exile, first to Libya, departing Uganda in a Bell UH-1 registered 5X-UWG, where sources are divided on whether he remained until December 1979 or early 1980, before finding final asylum in Saudi Arabia. He opened a bank account in Jeddah and resided there, subsisting on a government stipend. The new Ugandan government chose to keep him exiled, saying that Amin would face war crimes charges if he ever returned. The Saudi motive was to silence him because of the harm they believed he was doing to Islam.

In 1989, Amin, who had always held that Uganda needed him, and who never expressed remorse for the abuses of his regime,<ref name=remorse>Riccardo Orizio Talk of the Devil: Encounters With Seven Dictators, Walker & Company, 2004 (ISBN 0802776922)</ref> attempted to return to Uganda, apparently to lead an armed group organised by Col. Juma Oris. He went as far as Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), where Zairian President Mobutu forced him to return to Saudi Arabia.

On 20 July 2003, one of his wives, Madina, reported that he was near death in a coma at the King Faisal specialist hospital in Jeddah. She pleaded with Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni that he might return to die in Uganda. The reply was that if he returned, he would have to "answer for his sins."

Idi Amin died in Saudi Arabia on 16 August 2003, aged 79, and was buried in Ruwais cemetery in Jeddah. On 17 August 2003, David Owen told an interviewer for BBC Radio 4 that while he was the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary (1977–1979), he had suggested to have Amin assassinated. His idea was directly rejected. Owen said: "Amin's regime was the worst of all. It's a shame that we allowed him to keep in power for so long."

[edit] Portrayal in the media

[edit] Portrayal in Popular Culture

Idi Amin Dada's appearance and behaviour made him world famous and an irresistible target for comedians:

  • The Collected Broadcasts Of Idi Amin (1998) – Audio satire of Idi Amin based on Alan Coren's anti-Idi Punch columns starring the voice talents of John Bird. Featured is the song "Amazing Man" that has Idi Amin singing reggae with backup singers about himself. As the song progresses "Idi" shoots the backup singers one by one as his natural paranoia/megalomania manifests.
  • In the seventies Amin appeared at least twice as a regular villain in the Belgian comic strips Nero (comic strip) by Marc Sleen and Kiekeboe by Merho. In both versions he was depicted as a dumb and cruel egomaniac. Sleen drew Amin with his boxing gloves on, continually dripping with blood. At the times Amin was considered a friend of the Belgian government, so Sleen was forced to draw a beard on each picture he had drawn of Amin. In later stories Western media had finally discovered Amin was a dictator and so Sleen was allowed to draw him beardless. In Merho's version Amin was called "Bibi Pralin Gaga" ("a pralin" is a Belgian bonbon and "gaga" means "crazy"). The comics artist poked fun at the dictator's egomania and tyranny by showing him with so many medals he looks like a Christmas tree.
  • In a sketch on Saturday Night Live called "Idi Amin: Houseguest", which first aired on May 19, 1979, cast regular Garrett Morris portrayed a recently exiled Idi Amin who moves into a house shared by Bill Murray and guest host, Laraine Newman. Murray and Newman comically berate their new tenant after finding dismembered body parts of Amin's enemies stored in the refrigerator and hidden underneath the furniture. Morris also portrayed Amin in several other SNL sketches during the show's early years.
  • At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the "Grogo incident" was a campus uproar when a black porcelain gorilla "Grogo", which was the yearbook mascot, appeared in the 1976 Freshman Picturebook as coming from "Kampala, Uganda", which was in the news because of Amin at the time. African American activists in particular were incensed.
  • In Thomas Harris' novel Hannibal, the antagonist Mason Verger claimed to have travelled with Amin, executing villagers using a guillotine

[edit] References


[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Preceded by:
Milton Obote
President of Uganda
Succeeded by:
Yusufu Lule
ar:عيدي أمين

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Idi Amin

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