Idi Amin was one of the most brutal military dictators to wield power in post-independence Africa. While chief of staff of the Ugandan army, under Dr. Milton Obote's civilian government, he seized power in 1971. He made himself president, with the rank of field marshal, and after eight years of power left Uganda a legacy of bloodthirsty killings and economic mismanagement. Parliament was dissolved; no elections were held; secret police, most of them in plain clothes, exercised absolute power of life and death; and the courts and the press were subjugated to the whims of the executive.
Amin, by most accounts, was a deranged, homicidal maniac. He is most famous for the murder of an estimated 500,000. To accomplish this task, Amin deliberately created four rival and overlapping agencies: the Military Police, the Presidential Guard, the Public Safety Unit and the Bureau of State Research. His henchmen and bodyguards were drawn from his own Kakwa tribe. Combined with Libyan security experts, and Amin's own good luck, seven major assassination attempts were headed off between 1972 and 1979.
In the diplomatic arena, Amin raged against all who dared to cross him. He gradually became an international pariah. In a bizarre telegram sent to UN secretary-general Waldheim, he wrote, "Germany is the right place where, when Hitler was the supreme commander, he burnt over six million Jews. This is because Hitler and all German people knew that the Israelis are not people who are working in the interest of the people of the world, and that is why they burnt the Israelis alive with gas."
Amin's family life was a succession of casual mistresses, longer-serving concubines, and six wives. He is believed to have suffered from advanced syphilis which caused brain damage and insanity. He divorced his first three wives. A fourth, Kay, was found butchered into chunks and reassembled. He claimed to have fathered 32 children.
Amin's downfall came in 1979 when Ugandan troops crossed the frontier into Tanzania, looting and wrecking villages along the Kagera River. The Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere, retaliated by dispatching an armored column of tanks. Hundreds of Ugandan exiles joined it as it triumphantly entered Kampala.
Amin moved to Saudi Arabia, where he was given a villa in Jeddah on condition that he remain incommunicado indefinitely. The Saudi motive was to silence him because of the harm they believed he was doing to Islam. In the subsequent 24 years, he gave no interviews and stayed close to home. Idi Amin Dada, politician and soldier, born around 1925; died August 16 2003.
Data: Coins issued by the Republic of Uganda - with images crossed tusks and circular sprig: KM1 (U) - 5 cents; bronze; 20 mm; 3.21 g; issued 1966-1975 KM2 (U) - 10 cents; bronze; 24.5 mm; 5.00 g; issued 1966-1975 Banknote issued 1977 P-5A (U) - 5 Shillings; 130 x 70mm; Obverse: Idi Amin; Reverse: woman picking coffee beans
Album open measures: 11” x 7.5” Album folded measures: 5.5” x 7.5”
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