In 1971, General Idi Amin Dada overthrew the elected government of Milton Obote and declared himself president of Uganda, launching a ruthless eight-year regime in which an estimated 300,000 civilians were massacred.
His expulsion of all Indian and Pakistani citizens in 1972—along with increasing military expenditures—brought about the country’s economic decline, the impact of which lasted decades.
In 1979 his reign of terror came to an end as Ugandan exiles and Tanzanians took control of the capital of Kampala, forcing Amin to flee. Never brought to justice for his heinous crimes, Amin lived out the remainder of his life in Saudi Arabia.
Early Life, Reign & Military Career of Idi Amin Dada
Idi Amin Dada was born c. 1925 in Koboko, in northwestern Uganda, to a Kakwa father and Lugbara mother, who separated shortly afterward. In 1946, after receiving only a rudimentary education, Amin joined the King’s African Rifles (KAR), a regiment of the British colonial army, and quickly rose through the ranks.
He was deployed to Somalia in 1949 to fight the Shifta rebels and later fought with the British during the suppression of the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya (1952-56). In 1959 he attained the rank of effendi—the highest position for a black African soldier within the KAR—and, by 1966, he had been appointed commander of the armed forces.
Before Uganda’s independence in 1962, Amin became closely associated with the new nation’s prime minister and president, Milton Obote.
The two men worked to smuggle gold, coffee and ivory out of Congo, but conflicts soon arose between them, and on January 25, 1971, while Obote was attending a meeting in Singapore, Amin staged a successful military coup.
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Amin became president and chief of the armed forces in 1971, field marshal in 1975 and life president in 1976.
By the late 1970s Amin’s luck was running out. The economy was getting worse. Arabs were concerned about Amin’s failure to show how Uganda was becoming an Islamic nation but also concerned about his killing of fellow Muslims.
It was becoming difficult for Amin to import luxury goods for his army. To distract attention from the country’s internal crises, Amin ordered an invasion of Tanzania in October 1978, supposedly because the latter planned to overthrow his government. Amin’s army was forced back.
Tanzanians and exiled Ugandan soldiers then invaded Uganda and continued their pursuit of Amin until his government was overthrown on April 11, 1979.
Amin fled to Libya, but he later moved to Jidda, Saudi Arabia. There he spends his time reciting the Koran (the holy book of Islam), reading books, playing an accordion, swimming, fishing and watching television—especially sports programs and news channels. He follows events in his homeland closely.
Death of Idi Amin Dada
On August 16, 2003, Amin died in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The cause of death was reported to be multiple organ failure. Although the Ugandan government announced that his body could be buried in Uganda, he was quickly buried in Saudi Arabia. He was never tried for gross abuse of human rights.
Idi Amin Dada The Movie
The most-watched and informative movie, General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait, by the celebrated Swiss filmmaker Barbet Schroeder. Schroeder made this unique film in 1974 with Amin’s consent and hence called it “a self-portrait”. Interestingly, Amin is also credited for the music in the film.
The prelude to the film is a brief history of Amin coming to power in a coup d’état; his proclamation of economic war by ordering the expulsion of Asians from Uganda in 1972; the mass murders conducted in full public view to set an example to dissenters; the announcement of his arrival to world leaders, from U.S. President Richard Nixon to Queen Elizabeth II, with hilarious but stupid telegrams —Amin ordered the Queen to send Scottish guards to accompany him to the Commonwealth Games. By 1974, the economic situation had deteriorated considerably, with increased unemployment and high levels of inflation.
Grahame, Iain. Amin and Uganda: A Personal Memoir. London: Granada, 1980.
Gwyn, David. Idi Amin: Deathlight of Africa. Boston: Little, Brown, 1977.
Kyemba, Henry. A State of Blood: The Inside Story of Idi Amin. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1977.
The Movie General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait