Idi Amin: Early Life and Military Career
In 1925, Idi Amin Dada was born in Koboko, Uganda, to a Lugbara mother and Kakwa father, who separated shortly afterwards. After receiving only a basic education, Idi Amin joined the King’s African Rifles (KAR) in 1946, a British Colonial Army’s regiment, and swiftly rose through the ranks. In 1949, he was positioned in Somalia to battle the Shifta rebels and later fought with the British during the subduing of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya (1952-56). He earned the rank of effendi in 1959 – the highest position within the KAR for a black African soldier – and he had been appointed commander of the armed forces by 1966.
Idi Amin Seizes Control of the Ugandan Government
After over 70 years under British rule, Uganda became independent on October 9, 1962, and Milton Obote became Uganda’s first prime minister. Obote had formed an alliance, by 1964, with Idi Amin, who had assisted in the expansion of the size and power of the Ugandan Army. In February 1966, after accusations that the two were responsible for smuggling ivory and gold from Congo that were then traded for arms, Obote suspended the constitution and declared himself executive president. Not long afterwards, Obote sent Idi Amin to dethrone King Mutesa II, who ruled the powerful Baganda kingdom in south-central Uganda.
Some years and two failed assassination attempts later, Obote started to question Idi Amin’s loyalty and demanded his arrest while en route for a Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference to Singapore. Idi Amin took the offensive during his absence and on January 25, 1971 staged a coup, seizing control of the Ugandan government and forcing Milton Obote into exile.
Idi Amin: Regime of Terror
Once in power, Idi Amin started mass executions upon the Lango and Acholi, Obote’s loyal Christian tribes and therefore seen as a threat. He also started terrorizing the general public through several internal security forces he organized, such as the Public Safety Unity (PSU) and the State Research Bureau (SRB), whose major purpose was to remove those who opposed his regime.
Idi Amin expelled Uganda’s Asian population in 1972, which numbered between 50,000 and 70,000, leading to a collapse of the economy as commerce, agriculture and manufacturing came to a halt in the absence of appropriate resources to support them.
After the hijacking of an Air France flight from Israel to Paris on June 27, 1976 by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Idi Amin welcomed the terrorists and provided them with weapons and troops, but was humiliated when Israeli commandos then rescued the hostages at Entebbe airport in a surprise raid. Idi Amin ordered the execution, in the aftermath, of many airport personnel, hundreds of Kenyans whom were thought to have conspired with Israel and an elderly British hostage who had been escorted to a hospital nearby.
Idi Amin was estimated to have been accountable for the deaths of about 300,000 civilians throughout his oppressive rule.
Idi Amin Loses Control and Goes Into Exile
The number of Idi Amin’s intimate allies dwindled over time and previously loyal troops started to mutiny. When a number of them fled across the border into Tanzania, Idi Amin accused the Tanzanian president – Julius Nyerere – inciting the unrest and retaliated by seizing the Kagera Salient in November 1978. Nyerere launch a counter-offensive to recapture the land two weeks later, and pushed the Ugandan Army out with the assistance of Ugandan exiles. The battle thundered into Uganda and Idi Amin was forced to flee Kampala when captured on April 11, 1979. Although he initially sought refuge in Libya, he then moved to Saudi Arabia where he lived out the rest of his days comfortably until his death caused by multiple organ failure in 2003.