Idi Amin was the commander of Uganda’s armed forces when he overthrew the country’s civilian government in 1971. A brutal ruler, Amin directed his forces in a massive purge in which between 300,000 and 500,000 Ugandan citizens were killed. A Tanzanian invasion, supported by Ugandan rebels, forced Amin’s exile from the country in 1979.
Idi Amin (1925?-2003), president of Uganda (1971-1979), also known as Idi Amin Dada, whose brutality and disregard for the rule of law led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and plunged the country into chaos and poverty.
EARLY LIFE AND MILITARY CAREER
Idi Amin was born in Buganda to parents who came from northwestern Uganda. He received little formal education and pursued a career in the army from a young age. The details of Amin’s early military service are uncertain—when president, he claimed to have fought in Burma (Myanmar) in World War II (1939-1945), although he may have only served in the British army as a cook or orderly, and possibly was not involved in the war at all. Ugandan army records indicate that he entered the King's African Rifles (the British army’s East African corps) in 1946. A physically imposing athlete, Amin gained the attention and admiration of his superiors by becoming the heavyweight boxing champion of Uganda, a title he held from 1951 to 1960. In the early 1950s Amin campaigned with his battalion against the Mau Mau Rebellion, an uprising against British rule in Kenya. Just before Uganda became independent from Britain in 1962, Amin was promoted to lieutenant and ordered to disarm a number of cattle raiders in northeastern Uganda. While carrying out this order, Amin reportedly tortured several suspected cattle raiders. The British governor told the new prime minister, Milton Obote, about Amin’s misconduct, but Obote decided to overlook it, much to his later regret. Amin was promoted to captain by 1963 and was rapidly promoted to the rank of colonel and deputy commander of the army in 1964.
In 1965 Amin was implicated in a financial scandal with Obote and other top government officials. Ugandan military units were assisting rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who allegedly paid the Ugandans in gold. Amin had made large deposits in his personal bank account that he later admitted were the results of these transactions, although he denied any intention of keeping the funds. In the aftermath of the scandal, leaders of the kingdom of Buganda (a region of Uganda that enjoyed special governmental powers within the country) demanded Obote’s removal from office and threatened to secede. On Obote’s orders, Amin commanded a successful military attack on the palace of the kabaka (king) of Buganda, forcing the kabaka to flee the country. Obote subsequently named Amin the commander of Uganda's armed forces. Amin’s relationship with Obote deteriorated after the mysterious murder of high-ranking army officer Pierino Okoya in 1970. Okoya had earlier denounced Amin for cowardice because he fled to a military base instead of taking charge of the army following an attempted assassination of Obote in December 1969. In a move to take away Amin’s command over troops, Obote moved him to an administrative military position in late 1970. In January 1971, when Amin discovered that Obote intended to arrest him on charges of misappropriating millions of dollars of military funds, Amin organized a coup and overthrew Obote while Obote was out of the country.
Once in power, Amin appointed well-qualified administrators to most of the positions in his first cabinet, but he paid no attention to their advice. To control the army, Amin relied on the support of soldiers he had recruited from the northwest corner of Uganda. In his first year as president Amin ordered massacres of large numbers of Langi and Acholi troops who were suspected of being loyal to Obote. After Amin’s demands for large increases in military assistance were rebuffed by Israel and Britain, he expelled all Israeli advisers in 1972 and turned to the Arab Republic of Libya, which gave him immediate support. In doing so, Amin became the first black African leader to renounce ties with the Jewish state of Israel and side instead with Islamic nations in the Middle East conflict over possession of the historic region of Palestine (see Arab-Israeli Conflict). Subsequently, Amin made a number of anti-Semitic declarations, including praising German dictator Adolf Hitler for killing Jewish people during World War II.
Later in 1972 Amin announced that God had told him in a dream to expel Uganda’s Indian and Pakistani populations, who owned almost all of Uganda's businesses. At first, only non-Ugandan citizens were forced to leave, but eventually those with citizenship were also expelled. Officially, about 40,000 Indians and Pakistanis left, although many others fled across the borders. Their homes and businesses were allocated to Ugandans who had connections to Amin. Because many of the new business owners lacked experience running profitable enterprises, corruption and mismanagement quickly caused many of these businesses to fail. Shortages developed in Uganda, leading to high prices, more corruption, and greater involvement by state enterprises in the economy.
After a September 1972 coup attempt orchestrated by Obote from Tanzania, Amin grew more brutally repressive. Ugandans who criticized Amin or whom the government considered potentially dangerous to the regime were seized by roving squads of soldiers and summarily killed; their bodies were often found dismembered and horribly mutilated. Members of the Acholi and Langi ethnic groups, who had formed Obote’s support base, were particularly targeted. The number of civilians unlawfully killed by the Amin regime is disputed—it is often estimated at 300,000 and may have been as high as 500,000. Among those killed were Uganda's chief justice, murdered just after he had ruled against the government by ordering a British businessman who had been arrested without a warrant to be released; the vice-chancellor of Makerere University; several ministers who served in Amin’s government; and the Anglican Archbishop. However, most victims were ordinary citizens from targeted ethnic groups or districts, or were simply killed at the whim of Amin’s murderous henchmen.
Amin was condemned by much of the international community for his brutality, but when Britain and the United States cut aid to Uganda in 1972, he successfully turned to Libya and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). However, Amin was able to purchase luxury goods and military and communications equipment from private U.S. and British companies during most of his rule. The United States government did not pass a trade embargo until 1978. In an unsuccessful effort to encourage Amin to moderate his policies, the rulers of other African states elected him chair of the Organization of African Unity for a one-year term in 1975.
In 1976 Palestinian and West German terrorists hijacked an Air France plane with a large number of Israeli passengers, and Amin allowed them to land at Entebbe Airport and use it as a base. An Israeli commando raid successfully rescued more than 100 hostages; three hostages, all of the terrorists, an Israeli commander, and 20 to 40 Ugandan soldiers were killed in the raid. In revenge, Amin had a remaining passenger, an elderly woman who had been taken to a Ugandan hospital, murdered.
DOWNFALL AND EXILE
To cover up an army mutiny in southwestern Uganda, Amin invaded Tanzania, seizing a strip of Tanzanian territory north of the Kagera River in late 1978. The Tanzanian government swiftly mobilized its army and forced out the Ugandan soldiers. Then, accompanied by a small contingent of anti-Amin Ugandan rebels, the Tanzanian army invaded Uganda in early 1979. By April they had fought their way to Kampala, the Ugandan capital, and overthrown Amin's government.
Amin fled to Libya where he was offered asylum, but after an altercation between his security guards and the Libyan police, he was forced to leave at the end of 1979. He then accepted asylum in Saudi Arabia, settling in Jiddah. He made one known attempt to return to Uganda, in early 1989, getting as far as Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), where he was identified and forced to return to Saudi Arabia. Amin's rule had many lasting negative consequences for Uganda: It led to low regard for human life and personal security, widespread corruption, and the disruption of economic production and distribution.
Contributed By:Nelson Kasfir
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2008. © 1993-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
Nelson Mandela, born in 1918, South African activist, winner of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, and the first black president of South Africa (1994-1999). Born in Umtata, South Africa, in what is now Eastern Cape province, Mandela was the son of a Xhosa-speaking Thembu chief. He attended the University of Fort Hare in Alice where he became involved in the political struggle against the racial discrimination practiced in South Africa. He was expelled in 1940 for participating in a student demonstration. After moving to Johannesburg, he completed his course work by correspondence through the University of South Africa and received a bachelor’s degree in 1942. Mandela then studied law at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He became increasingly involved with the African National Congress (ANC), a multiracial nationalist movement which sought to bring about democratic political change in South Africa. Mandela helped establish the ANC Youth League in 1944 and became its president in 1951.
The National Party (NP) came to power in South Africa in 1948 on a political platform of white supremacy. The official policy of apartheid, or forced segregation of the races, began to be implemented under NP rule. In 1952 the ANC staged a campaign known as the Defiance Campaign, when protesters across the country refused to obey apartheid laws. That same year Mandela became one of the ANC’s four deputy presidents. In 1952 he and his friend Oliver Tambo were the first blacks to open a law practice in South Africa. In the face of government harassment and with the prospect of the ANC being officially banned, Mandela and others devised a plan. Called the “M” plan after Mandela, it organized the ANC into small units of people who could then encourage grassroots participation in antiapartheid struggles.
By the late 1950s Mandela, with Oliver Tambo and others, moved the ANC in a more militant direction against the increasingly discriminatory policies of the government. He was charged with treason in 1956 because of the ANC’s increased activity, particularly in the Defiance Campaign, but he was acquitted after a five-year trial. In 1957 Mandela divorced his first wife, Evelyn Mase; in 1958 he married Nomzamo Madikizela, a social worker, who became known as Winnie Mandela.
In March 1960 the ANC and its rival, the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), called for a nationwide demonstration against South Africa’s pass laws, which controlled the movement and employment of blacks and forced them to carry identity papers. After police massacred 69 blacks demonstrating in Sharpeville (see Sharpeville Massacre), both the ANC and the PAC were banned. After Sharpeville the ANC abandoned the strategy of nonviolence, which until that time had been an important part of its philosophy. Mandela helped to establish the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), in December 1961. He was named its commander-in-chief and went to Algeria for military training. Back in South Africa, he was arrested in August 1962 and sentenced to five years in prison for incitement and for leaving the country illegally.
While Mandela was in prison, ANC colleagues who had been operating in hiding were arrested at Rivonia, outside of Johannesburg. Mandela was put on trial with them for sabotage, treason, and violent conspiracy. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in June 1964. For the next 18 years he was imprisoned on Robben Island and held under harsh conditions with other political prisoners. Despite the maximum security of the Robben Island prison, Mandela and other leaders were able to keep in contact with the antiapartheid movement covertly. Mandela wrote much of his autobiography secretly in prison. The manuscript was smuggled out and was eventually completed and published in 1994 as Long Walk to Freedom. Later, Mandela was moved to the maximum-security Pollsmoor Prison near Cape Town. Mandela became an international symbol of resistance to apartheid during his long years of imprisonment, and world leaders continued to demand his release.
In response to both international and domestic pressure, the South African government, under the leadership of President F. W. de Klerk, lifted the ban against the ANC and released Mandela in February 1990. Soon after his release from prison he became estranged from Winnie Mandela, who had played a key leadership role in the antiapartheid movement during his incarceration. Although Winnie had won international recognition for her defiance of the government, immediately before Mandela’s release she had come into conflict with the ANC over a controversial kidnapping and murder trial that involved her young bodyguards. The Mandelas were divorced in 1996.
Mandela, who enjoyed enormous popularity, assumed the leadership of the ANC and led negotiations with the government for an end to apartheid. While white South Africans considered sharing power a big step, black South Africans wanted nothing less than a complete transfer of power. Mandela played a crucial role in resolving differences. For their efforts, he and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. The following year South Africa held its first multiracial elections, and Mandela became president.
Mandela sought to calm the fears of white South Africans and of potential international investors by trying to balance plans for reconstruction and development with financial caution. His Reconstruction and Development Plan allotted large amounts of money to the creation of jobs and housing and to the development of basic health care. In December 1996 Mandela signed into law a new South African constitution. The constitution established a federal system with a strong central government based on majority rule, and it contained guarantees of the rights of minorities and of freedom of expression. Mandela, who had announced that he would not run for reelection in 1999, stepped down as party leader of the ANC in late 1997 and was succeeded by South African deputy president Thabo Mbeki. Mandela's presidency came to an end in June 1999, when the ANC won legislative elections and selected Mbeki as South Africa's next president.
Contributed By:Patrick O’MearaN. Brian Winchester
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2008. © 1993-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.