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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Idi Amin Takes Control Of Uganda, January 25, 1971

Today in 1971, Idi Amin executed a military coup in the country of Uganda. He assumed the office of President of the African nation and began an eight year reign of terror that claimed between 300,000 and 500,000 of his fellow countrymen’s lives.

Amin’s experience with the military began in 1946 when he joined the British colonial army as a private. He was good at being a soldier and quickly rose in the ranks despite developing a reputation for cruelty. He saw combat during the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya and eventually reached the rank of effendi, the highest rank an African could achieve in the British Army. He also became an accomplished swimmer and light heavyweight boxing champion during this time.

Uganda was granted its independence in 1962. Milton Obote, the nation’s first prime minister, promoted Amin to the rank of captain and then made him deputy commander of the army in 1964. Relations between the prime minister and Amin began to go south in the late 1960’s as a result of governmental scandal. Amin, now a general, was placed under house arrest. This failed to stop his supporters in the army, many of whom were from his home tribe.

Prime Minister Obote was out of the country when Idi Amin seized power today in 1971. He was initially greeted warmly by the international community but this warmth quickly cooled when news of death squads reached the outside world. Amin was murdering the former prime minister’s supporters and many of the county’s elites whom he saw as a threat.

Obote tried to regain control of Uganda by launching an invasion from Tanzania in 1972, but the move was unsuccessful and only served to bring Amin’s internal enemies out into the open where they could be killed. The General kicked everyone with a British passport out of the nation, severed relations with Israel and the UK and began to accept support from Libya’s Colonel Qadhafi and the Soviet Union.

The end of Idi Amin’s reign began in 1976 when an Air France plane hijacked by PLO terrorists landed in Entebbe, Uganda and received direct support from the Ugandan military. Four days later, Israeli special forces freed the kidnapped passengers with the loss of three hostages and one Israeli soldier. It was an enormous loss of face and the army began to turn on its commander.

Amin tried to keep things together by invading Tanzania in October, 1978. The Tanzanians launched a counter-attack and drove toward the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Amin fled to Libya and then to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis granted Idi Amin the right to stay in the country provided he did not involve himself in the nation’s politics; they even provided him with a stipend to live on. He died in Saudi Arabia on August 16, 2003 and is buried in Jeddah.

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