Under the colonial British East Africa protectorate Idi Amin was made an army officer from a cook due to his huge physique and stamina which made him excel in sports and marksmanship. He held the national heavy weight championship for 9 years when he was a boxer.
His brutal nature showed when he was a corporal. He used to round up Mau Mau dissidents with undue brutality. Six months before Ugandans independence he escaped charges of murder of three Turkana tribesmen while on the then Kenyan Northern Frontier district to be recruited in the army by Milton Obote.
Idi Amin escaped because he had rose to sergeant major- the highest post held to be held by an African. Although classified as not an officer’s material due to his low education credential in army exams, the British colonialist trusted his loyalty.
At Ugandans independence, 1962, Milton Obote ignored Amin’s army records and commissioned him an officer. Obote mistook him for a bluff, loyal and simple soldier who was malleable and gave him a Mercedes Benz.
Schism appeared between the two when Obote in a bid to control the army started enticing senior army officers for support among his tribal Langi and Acholi. He started up the General Service Department, a special force he field with his Langi tribesmen.
To survive Amin countered Obote’s maneuvers by recruiting heavily the Kakwa, Madi and Lugbara tribes from his West Nile district. He also recruited heavily from Nubians of the southern Sudan in the area.
Tension between the two intensified when Amin was implicated for the murder of an Acholi deputy commander and embezzlement of army funds.
When president Obote left for a commonwealth conference, Amin struck first with little resistance by a coup in January 1971.
With a phobia for a counter attack Amin organized death squads to kill people he thought opposed him. His cabinet secretary and later minister, Henry Kayemba, wrote from exile that it was difficult to dispose the bodies in the graves. Truckloads of corpses were dumped in the Nile at three sites- Owen falls in Jinja, Bujagali falls near an army shooting range and Karuma Fall near Murchison Falls.
“The intention was for the bodies to be eaten by crocodiles.” Kayemba notes the disposal was inefficient. “Bodies were frequently swept to the bank, where they were seen by passer bys and fishermen.”
During Amin’s regime about 250,000 people died.
As the first principal secretary, Kayemba never received any written document from Idi Amin.
“His English was poor. He read badly and clearly had hard time just signing prepared documents,” Kayemba said. He used to give orders for government ministers through the national radio.
When his popularity dwindled and he ran out of Budget, Amin ordered the central bank to print more money. This caused a massive inflation. Price of goods soared while essential goods disappeared from shelves. Amin later turned to the Asian community to appease Ugandans.
In august 1972, Amin ordered Asians with British nationality to leave the country within three months. 50,000 left cutting the government revenue by 40% and negatively affecting government services by leaving a void of skilled labor.
Amin aided in training of Palestrina’s Liberation organization (PLO) guerrillas. Former Palestine leader Yasser Arafat was his close friend. He once cabled Israeli’s Golda Meir ‘to tuck her knickers’ and ran to Washington. When Palestinian guerillas murdered Israelis participants at the Olympic Games, he sent a telegram to United Nations secretary general extolling Hitler’s extermination of Jews.
“Hitler and all German people knew that the Israeli’s are not people who are working in the interest of the people of the world and that is why they burned over six million Jews alive with gas on the soil of Germany.”
During the 1972 abortive coup attempt from Tanzania by Obote, Amin dismembered his former wife and left the body in the car booth for alleged participation in the coup.
Obsessed with his personality, he promoted himself president for life, conqueror of British emperor and the true heir of the throne of Scotland’. To prove his power over the British colonialist Amin took sadistic pleasure in humiliating British army reservist to kneel before him and take the oath of loyalty if they wanted to work as expatriates in Uganda.
He once shocked African diplomats in a Uganda hotel when he arrived on a wooden litter borne by British carriers.
Amin once offered British music living Prime Minister Edward Heath, post of a bandmaster after his election defeat, president Nixon of USA was wished a speedy recovery from Watergate and proposed himself the head of commonwealth.
Amin was outset to Saudi Arabia where he died on16 August 2003 when he ordered invasion of Kagera, Tanzania, Tanzanian forces outset him and aided in replacement of Milton Obote who was outset in the country.