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Idi Amin Essay


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Idi Amin never wrote an autobiography nor authorized any official biography 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. 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). Nyabire was an ethnic Kakwa and Catholic who converted to Islam in 1910 and changed his name to Amin Dada.

Other sources say that Dada was not his father’s name, but a nickname Amin acquired during his military career.

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.

Amin joined the King’s African Rifles (KAR) of the British colonial army in 1946 as part of the laundry and kitchen army staff whilst undergoing training.

In 1947 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. He served in the 21st KAR infantry brigade Gilgil, Kenya, until 1949 when his unit was deployed in Somalia to fight the Somali Shifta rebels who were raiding cattle. In 1952 his battalion was deployed against the Mau Mau. 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. 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. 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 castrate the nomads unless they revealed where they had hidden their spears. 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 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. Amin seized power in a military coup on 25 January 1971, when Obote was attending a Commonwealth summit meeting in Singapore. 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”. When he gained power, Amin 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. 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.

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. Ugandan soldiers during this period engaged in theft and violence against the Asians with impunity. Obote took refuge in Tanzania, from where, in 1972, he attempted unsuccessfully to regain the country through a military coup.

Obote supporters within the Ugandan army, who were predominantly from the Acholi and Lango ethnic groups, were also involved in the coup. Amin responded 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 Amin became increasingly paranoid. The Nile Mansions Hotel in Kampala became infamous as Amin’s interrogation and torture centre, and Amin is said to have moved residences regularly to avoid assassination attempts.

Amin’s killer squads, under the official titles of ‘State Research Bureau’ and ‘Public Safety Unit’ were responsible for tens of thousands of abductions, tortures and murders. Amin personally ordered the execution of the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Janani Luwum, the chief justice, the chancellor of Makerere College, governor of the Bank of Uganda, and several of his own parliamentary ministers. Popular legend as Amin involved in Kakwa blood rituals and cannibalism.

More authoritative sources suggest that he may have suffered from hypomania, a form of manic depression which is characterised by irrational behaviour and emotional outbursts. As his paranoia became more pronounced he imported troops from Sudan and Zaire, until less than 25% of the army was Ugandan. As accounts of Amin’s atrocities reached the international press, support for his regime faltered. (But only in 1978 did the United States shift its purchase of coffee from Uganda to neighbouring states. ) The Ugandan economy faltered and inflation reached an excess of 1,000 percent.

Amin was considered by many to be a gregarious, charismatic leader, and was often portrayed by the international press as a popular African independence leader. In 1975 he was elected president of the Organisation of African Unity (though Julius Kambarage Nyerere, president of Tanzania, Kenneth David Kaunda , president of Zambia, and Seretse Khama, president of Botswana, did boycott the meeting). A United Nations condemnation was blocked by African heads of state. In October 1978, with the assistance of Libyan troops, Amin attempted to annex Kagera, the northern province of Tanzania (which shares a border with Uganda).

The Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere, responded by sending troops into Uganda, and with the aid of rebel Ugandan forces, the Ugandan capital of Kampala was captured. Amin fled to Libya, where he stayed for almost ten years, before finally relocating to Saudi Arabia, where he remained in exile. On 16 August 2003 Idi Amin Dada, the ‘Butcher of Uganda’, 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. 1. Jan Palmowski, Dictionary of Contemporary World History: From 1900 to the present day. Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 2003 2. 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 3. http://africanhistory. about. com/od/biography/a/bio_amin_2. htm 4. http://www. cnn. com/2003/WORLD/africa/08/16/saudi. amin/ 5. http://www. nytimes. com/2003/08/16/international/africa/16AMIN.

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