PSYCHO WITH A MYSTICAL AURA
UGANDA, 1971-1979 500,000 KILLED
When a man declares Hitler was right to kill six million Jews, you know he’s a nasty piece of work. Ugandan despot and Nazi sympathiser Idi Amin was arguably the most brutal leader to emerge from post-colonial Africa, a “murderer, a liar and a savage” who left an indelible blood stain on his country during an eight-year reign of terror.
Amin was surrounded by a halo of mysticism, dating back to his time as commander of the Ugandan army. In 1964, Amin led a raid on the palace of the king of Bugunda, an ethnic ruler within Uganda. The victory of this Muslim peasant over a sophisticated Christian leader instilled Amin with a legend that he would wield through his career, giving him the conviction that he was something more than mortal.
His actions certainly suggested he didn’t possess a speck of humanity. After seizing power from Milton Obote in a 1971 coup, Amin quickly went about asserting total control.
He declared himself as President, Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and Army of Chief Staff. He surrounded himself with members of his own tribe, the Kakwas. Democratic sections of the Ugandan constitution were suspended. Military tribunals were given authority over civil courts. Four agencies were set up to carry out mass killings of dissidents, ethnic rivals and anyone Amin believed to be a threat to his power – including former prime minister Benedicto Kiwanuka and Anglican archbishop Janani Luwum.
On one particularly gruesome occasion, 32 army officers from various Christian tribes were rounded up into a tiny cell in Makindye Prison in Kampala and blown up with dynamite.
In August 1972, Amin woke one morning, claiming he’d dreamt that he must expel 80,000 Ugandans who descended from the Indian subcontinent. That very day, he ordered his troops to begin rounding up these people, the start of an ‘economic war’ that saw nearly all 80,000 Asian Ugandans chucked out of the country – not before Amin had stolen their businesses and properties, and then given them to his own supporters.
Amin died in 2003, after himself exiling to Saudi Arabia. The exact number of his victims still isn’t known, but Amnesty International puts the total at around half a million.