In 1971, General Idi Amin (Idi Amin Dada Oumee) born 17 May 1925, overthrew the elected government of Milton Obote and declared himself president of Uganda. 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.
General Idi Amin: Early Life and Military Career
Idi Amin Dada was born c. 1925 in Koboko, in northwestern Uganda, to a Kakwa father and Lugbara mother, who separated shortly afterwards. 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.
General Idi Amin Military Service
Extremely charismatic and skilled, Amin quickly rose through the ranks. His stature was rather notable. He stood 6 feet, 4 inches tall and was a Ugandan light-heavyweight boxing champion from 1951 to 1960, as well as a swimmer.
He soon became notorious among fellow soldiers for his overzealous and cruel military interrogations. Eventually he made the highest rank possible for a black African serving in the British army.
From 1952 until 1956, he served in the British action against the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya.
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. Amin became president and chief of the armed forces in 1971, field marshal in 1975 and life president in 1976.
General Idi Amin Rise to Power
Amin began his rule with popular actions, including freeing several political prisoners. Simultaneously, however, he sent out “killer squads” to hunt down and murder Obote’s supporters, predominantly those from the Acholi and Lango ethnic groups, military personnel and civilians.
His victims soon came to include people from every order and rank, including journalists, lawyers, homosexuals, students and senior bureaucrats. He expelled all Asians from Uganda in 1972, an action that led to the breakdown of his country’s economy.
General Idi Amin Loses Control and Enters Exile
Over time, the number of Amin’s intimate allies dwindled and formerly loyal troops began to mutiny. When some fled across the border into Tanzania, Amin accused Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere of instigating the unrest and retaliated by annexing the Kagera Salient, a strip of territory north of the Kagera River, in November 1978.
Two weeks later, Nyerere mobilized a counter-offensive to recapture the land, and drove the Ugandan Army out with the help of Ugandan exiles. The battle raged into Uganda, and on April 11, 1979, Amin was forced to flee when Kampala was captured. Although he originally sought refuge in Libya, he later moved to Saudi Arabia.
General Idi Amin’s Death
On August 16, 2003, Idi 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.
Idi Amin was never tried for gross abuse of human rights.
- General Idi Amin Biography and Profile (Goodreadbiography / History / Biography)