Monday, June 15, 2015

Dangerous Dictators: Idi Amin

Idi Amin
He ruled his country with an iron fist for 9 years. During that time, he terrorized his people and subjugated them in tremendous fear. He crushed his opponent both real and imagined. His antics surprised many and gave him the image of a “buffoon” in the eyes of the international community. He led his country through his personal taste, making his country isolated, chaotic, and bankrupt. He was one of Africa’s most brutal dictator. He was Idi Amin.

The life story of Africa’s most bloody dictator began in the northern Ugandan town of Koboko. Idi Amin’s birthday had to been absolutely known as details varies. But many accepted that Idi Amin Dada was born in 1925 to a family belonging to the Kakwa tribe. His father served as a local policeman and abandoned his family during the early years of Idi Amin. His mother worked to provide for her children. Later on, her mother had contact within the army that allowed Idi Amin to enter into service. Although poor, he received education from the local missionary and in 1946, upon reaching proper age, he finally joined the King’s African Rifle Regiment.

Idi Amin served in the British colonial army. Initially he served as a cook but later became a combat soldier. He saw action in Somalia and Kenya, fighting on the British side during the bloody Mau Mau Rebellion. He quickly rose in the ranks. His officers characterize him as a shrewd and calculative. He became further notice when in 1951, Amin showed his great physical skills and athleticism by winning the light heavyweight championship in boxing. He held the title for a decade. Signs of his cruelty, however, appeared in a mission in 1962. The British ordered Amin to capture cattle thieves rampaging in Northern Uganda, in an area near Turkana. Amin succeeded in capturing them, but the following event appalled his superiors. Amin had the thieves tortured and beaten to death. Some unluckily passed away by burning alive. The incident became known as Turkana Massacre. Amin’s British superior’s wanted to investigate the incident. However, the British just granted Uganda its independence and they don’t have the time to undergo the process of investigation and trial. In the end, the British officials reported that Amin act was “overzealous.”

Amin had close relations with Milton Obote at the earlier stage. In 1962, Uganda became independent from the British Empire and had Milton Obote as its first Prime Minister. In the army, Amin ranked as a Captain and was one of the two only African officers in the ranks. Amin advocated an increase of numbers of Africans in the army. In 1964, Obote promoted Amin as the deputy commander of Ugandan Army and sent him abroad to study the military of Israel. Amin went to Israel and took paratrooper courses. During his studies, he became in touch with the Israeli Mossad. Mossad asked Amin to help them to smuggle supplies to their allies in Sudan upon his return to Uganda. Indeed Amin supported the Israeli-backed rebels in Sudan when he returned to his country. Meanwhile, following his ties with rebels in Uganda, Obote and Amin supported another rebel in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They helped to smuggle gold and ivory to Uganda to finance the cause of Patrice Lumumba. Parliament and the cabinet discovered the activity and had Amin suspended and pending an investigation of Obote. But in 1966, Obote, with the help of Amin, fought back by launching a coup that led to Obote becoming the all-powerful President of Uganda and suspended the 1962 Constitution, concentrating all powers to him. As a reward for his support, Amin became a Major General and commander of the Ugandan armed Forces. But years later, Obote and Amin had a falling out.

Amin and Obote went at odds in 1970. Amin became a prominent figure in the army while Obote became known as a repressive ruler. In that year, an assassination attempt made to Milton Obote’s life. Following the assassination attempt, a rival of Amin, Brigadier General Pierino Okoya, passed away through suspicious circumstances. Obote suspected Amin of orchestrating the attempted assassination and the death of Okoya. Obote then ordered the house arrest of Amin.

Amin launched a coup before Obote could move to eliminate him. In January 1871, Obote left Uganda to attend the British Commonwealth Conference in Singapore. Amin took Obote’s absence as an opportunity to initiate a coup to take over power. Amin won support from the people who felt tired and mad over Obote’s repressive and corrupt regime. Israelis and also British welcomed the coup when Amin promised his leadership as temporary and election to be held shortly afterwards. They also saw Amin’s coup to bring stability to the turbulent internal politics of Uganda. However, to the dismay of the international community, Amin had no plans of letting go of power. Upon his rise to the position of the most powerful man in Uganda, he had his opponents, both real and hallucinations, and officers loyal to Obote either arrested or executed. Bloody incidents of deaths of officers occurred. One such story involved officers loyal to Obote blown up with dynamite in their cells. 6,000 soldiers out of 9,000 soldiers in the army said to be loyal to the former President also faced their sudden demised. In 1972, Obote made an attempt to remove Idi Amin from power by launching an invasion of Uganda from Tanzania. Eventually, it failed. Amin went in berserk to punish Tanzania and those loyal to Obote. Tanzanian towns suffered bombings from Amin’s forces. Acholi and Lango tribes, who supported Obote, terribly endured persecution in the hands of Amin. Many in the army coming from the Acholi and Lango ethnicity fell in the hands of Amin. Amin then placed officers from his own Kakwa Tribe in order to ensure loyalty towards him. 

The brutality of Idi Amin’s rule became the most horrific and the most infamous in world history. Built upon his unmeasurable paranoia, he reorganize and shuffle his army, police and cabinet, and killed who he saw as a threat to his rule both real and imagine. Ministers and generals saw a brutal and sudden demise because of Amin’s rampage. Generals, like Charles Arube, died just right after Amin confronted them of allegation of plotting coups to overthrow his government. His killings extended to other branches of the government as well. For instance, he had a chief justice killed. He also ordered the execution of the Governor of the Bank of Uganda. Other sector felt his merciless killings as well. He had intellectuals and even clergy men, most being prominent the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, disposed of. Within the populace, fear of sudden death also lingered. Amin established the State Research Bureau and Public Safety Unit, whose 18,000 worked as the secret police, responsible in terrorizing and killing civilians. Amin’s military and even his own presidential guards worked as his own death squad, killing opponents and dissidents alike. Rumors of Amin eating bits of his opponents’ bodies or following the Kakaw blood ritual spread in Uganda and around the world. Stories of Amin keeping body pieces of those killed in a refrigerator also gained notoriety. Estimates suggested that over 100 to 300,000 perished during Amin’s rule and most of the corpses littered and floated foully in the great River Nile.

Idi Amin’s family also suffered the same harsh and vicious treatment that the people of Uganda suffered. In 1974, stories of promiscuous activities of his four wives reached Idi Amin. Miriam, one of his wives, got arrested and fined. Nora, got divorced, Madina received an extreme beating from Amin and had her jaw broken. But the worst fate fell to Kay. Amin divorced her and had her arrested under the allegation of stealing a pistol from him. He got released and later on she turned dead in a trunk of one of Amin’s physicians and her cadaver extremely mutilated with different limbs sewn back into the wrong parts of the torso. Amin showed no mercy and even ordered the body of Kay to be displayed outside a hospital and had her children look upon to the desecrated body of their mother.

Amin tried to shadow his brutality with nationalistic appeal. To cover up his insane brutality, he promoted to the people his image of a nationalistic leader. In 1972, he launched a so-called “economic war” against Asian who controlled most of Uganda’s economy and aimed to make Uganda a Blackman’s country. Asians, mostly made up of Indians and Pakistanis, became the focus of Amin’s diversion. He gave an ultimatum to leave the country within 90 days or suffer the most gruesome death. In the end, over 60,000 to 80,000 Asians left the country, leaving behind their fortune and business and also a collapsing Ugandan economy. Without the Asian, many business became owner-less and many jobs loss in the process. The impoverish situation of Uganda just went worst.

Amin’s deplorable violations of human rights, however, continued to reach the international community, worst, his own paranoia led eventually to numerous diplomatic row and eventually caused his downfall. Initially, Amin had good relations with the British and the Israelis. However, as his paranoia intensified, he began to shift his views towards them as he felt that they plotted against his rule. In 1975, relations between Uganda and Britain soured. Amin ordered the execution of a British citizen named Denis Hills under the charges of espionage. Thankfully, the British foreign secretary successfully negotiated the release of Hills. Hills, upon his return home described Amin as a man that the west should not consider as a buffoon. As relations worsen between the two countries, Amin made several ridiculous antics against the British. At the same year, he awarded himself the Victoria Cross. He also made four white men carry him in a throne and had them kneel before him and pledge their loyalty to him. He also called himself the King of Scotland and in 1976, following his act of declaring himself President for Life and promoting himself to the position of Field Marshall, he announced himself as the Conqueror of the British Empire. Because of this, his official title became: His Excellency President for Life Field Marshall Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin, VC (Victoria Cross), DSO (Distinguished Service Order), MC (Military Cross), 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.

Idi Amin’s relations with Israel went worst as well. The good relation between Israel and Amin dissipated as years went on. In 1972, Idi Amin sent Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir a chilling message stating his dismay to Hitler’s failure in exterminating the Jews. Idi Amin then also supported groups that fought against Israel, for example the Palestinians. The lowest point in Ugandan-Israeli relations came in 1976. A group of Palestinian hijackers captured an Air France Flight bearing 105 Israelis and Jews from other nationalities. Amin allowed the hijacked plane to land in Entebbe Airport. On July 4, 1976, Israel decided to rescue the passengers by sending in Israeli Special Forces supported by Britain and other African countries. The rescue resulted to a success. Three passengers, however, passed away. 2 died during the rescue. The other, an old lady recovering from an illness in the local hospital felt the wrath of Amin after the rescue operation. Following the Entebbe Airport incident, Britain and Israel broke diplomatic ties with Uganda.

Amin reacted violently and quickly. He had 200 high ranking military officials killed. He ordered the expulsion of remaining foreigners. In addition, he took over more 80 British major companies in Uganda and gave them away to his cronies.

Idi Amin relations with Africa also worsened after the 1976 incident. Before that, African countries tried to control Amin’s unacceptable human rights violation by giving him the chairmanship of the Organization of African Unity. However, the act went to a no avail. Amin continued his brutal and oppressive regime. After his conflict with Israel, he began to have close relations with Libya. Amin found other friends in Africa besides Libya. For instance, he supported Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko to end the Shaba rebellion and invasion. But in other notes, Amin had strained relations with its neighbors like Kenya, who Amin accused of supporting Israel during the operation in Entebbe Airport in 1976. He also had terrible relations with Tanzania since 1972 after they supported the invasion of former Ugandan Prime Minister Milton Obote.

Amin launched an invasion against Tanzania in October 1978. He took the action as a way to halt the military activities of his opponents operating from the Tanzania, in particular, the Kagera region. Amin soon regretted the decision. Soon enough, after a quick Ugandan advance in Tanzanian territory, the Tanzanian army launched a counterattacked. After a successful counterattack, Tanzania launched an invasion of Uganda. Uganda rebels who fought against Amin’s regime joined the Tanzanians to capture the Ugandan capital of Kampala. By April 1979, Tanzanian army and Ugandan rebels triumphantly captured the capital city. Idi Amin fled the country to Libya. The nine bloody and terrible years of Idi Amin’s rule ended.

Idi Amin lived for many years after his deposition. In 1989, he attempted to return to Uganda when he flew to Zaire. However, the Uganda threatened arrest if the deposed general and president returned to the country. Amin never tried to step back to his country. He then received an asylum to Saudi Arabia. There he lived a luxurious life. In exchange for not returning to Uganda, the Saudis gave Amin a stipend of $1,400 in addition to a modest home complete with services and a car. Idi Amin lived until August 16, 2003 when the once violent and sadistic President of Uganda passed away due to kidney failure.

In Idi Amin’s wake he left a country scarred by his brutality and ruthlessness. His paranoia combined with his brutality led to one of the most brutal regimes that Africa and even the world had seen. He brought death to thousands of men and women, including his closes friends and family. He brought Uganda to its knees. And towards his demise, he never regretted a single one of his actions. Idi Amin ranks as one of the world’s most dangerous dictators.  

See also:

“Amin, Idi.” In Dictionary of Genocide. Edited by Samuel Totten & Paul Bartrop. Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing, 2007.

“Amin, Idi (Idi Amin Dada).” In Encyclopedia of War Crimes & Genocide. Edited by Leslie Hovitz & Christopher Catherwood. New York, New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2006.

De Gorge, Barbara. “Amin, Idi.” In Encyclopedia of Modern Dictators: From Napoleon to the Present. Edited by Frank Coppa. New York, New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2009.

Mensah, Joseph. “Amin, Idi.” In Encyclopedia of the Developing World Volume 1 A-E Index. Edited by Thomas Leonard. New York, New York: Routledge, 2006.

Nave, Ari. “Amin, Idi.” In Encyclopedia of Africa. Edited by Kwame Appiah & Henry Gates. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

“Britain breaks off diplomatic relations with Uganda.” In South African History Online, towards a people’s history. Accessed June 14, 2015.

“Obituary: The buffon tyrant.” In BBC News. Accessed June 14, 2015.

1 comment:

  1. This is all lies. Fake and shameful. Liars. Idi Amin was better way better than you can possibly imagine liar.