UGANDA, 1971-1979 500,000 KILLED

World of Knowledge (Australia) - - History -

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.

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