During his rule he banned hippies and mini-skirts.
He is reported to have kept the severed heads of political opponents in his fridge
Warning some parts of this story maybe disturbing.
To understand Amin’s reign of terror it is necessary to realize that he was not an ordinary political tyrant. He did more than murder those whom he considered his enemies: he also subjected them to barbarisms even after they were dead. These barbarisms are well attested. It was common knowledge in the Ugandan medical profession that many of the bodies dumped in hospital mortuaries were terribly mutilated, with livers, noses, lips, genitals or eyes missing. Amin’s killers did this on his specific instructions; the mutilations follow a well-defined pattern. After Gofrey Kigala was shot in 1974, his eyes were gouged out and his body was partially skinned before it was dumped outside Kampala. Medical reports on deaths of Shaban Nkutu, Lt.Col Ondoga etc stated that the bodies had been cut open and that a number of internal organs had been tampered with.
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 became known as the ‘Butcher of Uganda’ for his brutal, despotic rule whilst president of Uganda in the 1970s, is possibly the most notorious of all Africa’s post-independence dictators. Amin seized power in a military coup in 1971 and ruled over Uganda for 8 years. Estimates for the number of his opponents who were killed, tortured, or imprisoned vary during his eight-year Ugandan dictatorship. Is it possible to distinguish the man from the monster?
Amin, the despotic ruler of Uganda from 1971 to 1979, had a strange fascination with the country of Scotland that led him to declare himself its king, according to the Scotsman. He sympathized with Scotland’s previous struggles against the British, who he viewed as an enemy, and took many opportunities to attempt to offend the former colonial power.
Uganda was a protectorate of the British Empire before becoming independent in 1962, and when Idi Amin took over Uganda in 1971, he was not nostalgic about the country’s colonial past. He became fascinated with the history of Scotland, which had rebelled against British rule centuries earlier. Amin even went so far as to create a Scottish band, sending men to the country to learn the bagpipes and having them dress in kilts and Scottish regalia for official events.
When Britain broke off diplomatic ties with the country, Amin declared himself Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa, and he offered Scotland to take on the role of their king and free them from oppression. Scotland never took him up on his offer, and his brutal regime came to an end before the decade ended. It is also said that his motivation for banning all Asians from Uganda stemmed from being rebuffed by the daughter of an important Asian family. Amin’s maniacal legacy also includes writing love letters to Queen Elizabeth.
Idi Amin Dada was born sometime between 1925 and 1927 in Koboko, West Nile Province, in Uganda. His father was a Kakwa, a tribe that exists in Uganda, Zaire (now Congo), and Sudan. As a boy, Amin spent much time tending goats and working in the fields. He embraced Islam and attained a fourth-grade education. He was brought up by his mother, who abandoned his father to move to Lugazi, Uganda.
As Amin grew he matched the qualifications for military service desired by the British at that time. He was tall and strong. He spoke the Kiswahili language. He also lacked a good education, which implied that he would take orders well. Joining the army as a private in 1946, Amin impressed his superiors by being a good swimmer, rugby player, and boxer. He won the Uganda heavyweight boxing championship in 1951, a title he held for nine years. He was promoted to corporal in 1949.
Although he was considered a skilled, and somewhat overeager, soldier, Amin developed a reputation for cruelty – he was almost cashiered on several occasions for excessive brutality during interrogations.
He rose through the ranks, reaching sergeant-major before finally being made an effendi, the highest rank possible for a Black African serving in the British army. Amin was also an accomplished sportsman, holding Uganda’s light heavyweight boxing championship from 1951 to 1960.
As Uganda approached independence Idi Amin’s close colleague Apolo Milton Obote, the leader of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), was made chief minister, and then prime minister.
Obote had Amin, one of only two high ranking Africans in the KAR, appointed as First Lieutenant of the Ugandan army. Sent north to quell cattle stealing, Amin perpetrated such atrocities that the British government demanded he be prosecuted. Instead Obote arranged for him to receive further military training in the UK.
On his return to Uganda in 1964, Idi Amin was promoted to major and given the task of dealing with an army in mutiny. His success led to a further promotion to colonel. In 1965 Obote and Amin were implicated in a deal to smuggle gold, coffee, and ivory out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – the subsequent funds should have been channeled to troops loyal to the murdered DRC prime minister Patrice Lumumba, but according to their leader, General Olenga, never arrived. A parliamentary investigation demanded by President Edward Mutebi Mutesa II (who was also the King of Buganda, known colloquially as ‘King Freddie’) put Obote on the defensive – he promoted Amin to general and made him Chief-of-Staff, had five ministers arrested, suspended the 1962 constitution, and declared himself president. King Freddie was finally forced into exile in Britain in 1966 when government forces, under the command of Idi Amin, stormed the royal palace.
Idi Amin began to strengthen his position within the army, using the funds obtained from smuggling and from supplying arms to rebels in southern Sudan. He also developed ties with British and Israeli agents in the country. President Obote first responded by putting Amin under house arrest, and when this failed to work, Amin was sidelined to a non-executive position in the army. On 25 January 1971, whilst Obote attended a Commonwealth meeting in Singapore, Amin led a coup d’etat and took control of the country, declaring himself president. Popular history recalls Amin’s declared title to be:
“His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.”
Idi Amin was initially welcomed both within Uganda and by the international community. King Freddie had died in exile in 1969 and one of Amin’s earliest acts was to have the body returned to Uganda for state burial. Political prisoners (many of whom were Amin followers) were freed and the Ugandan Secret Police was disbanded. However, at the same time Amin had ‘killer squads’ hunting down Obote’s supporters.
In the first few weeks after the 1971 coup d’état, Amin set about eliminating suspected opponents in the army. While Obote used the 1967 Detention Act to lock his opponents in prisons where they were “well treated.” Amin killed them. Such was the fate of various high-ranking officers known or perceived to be his opponents. There were mass killings of members of the GSU, the Special Force, Police, Prisoners and civilians. Victims were abducted by loyal security men, put on trucks and taken to prisons like Luzira, Makindye, Mutukula, and Jinja, which had been turned into slaughterhouses.
Bodies were dumped in lakes, rivers, forests, and isolated areas. Mass graves were dug near barracks by prisoners who were themselves eventually killed. Traditional Kakwa rituals were resurrected. Parts of the body, including the penis, were often cut off and ceremoniously put into the mouth of the victim. If the victim was a tough opponent of the regime, his head was preserved and “addressed” by those in authority.
Amin consolidated his base in the army by using his own ethnic groups. In march 1971 more than thirty Acholi/ Langi soldiers were dynamited at Makindye Barracks. On 22 July 1971 about 150 to 500 Acholis and Langi from Simba Battalion, Mbarara, were hearded into trucks, taken to an isolated ranch, and gunned down. On going to Israel and Europe in July 1971, Amin gave orders for the elimination of the Langi and Acholi soldiers fearing they might organize a coup. At Mbarara soldiers from these ethnic groups were separated from the rest and taken to their deaths. On 9 July 1971 about twenty new Acholi/Langi recruits were killed; more died the following day. Between 10 and 14 July 1971 some fifty Acholi/ Langi soldiers were killed at Magamaga Ordnance Depot. Further massacres of these ethnic groups occurred at military barracks at Masindi, Soroti, and Kitgum. On 5 February 1972, about 117 soldiers and other security men of the Obote regime were mowed down as they tried to escape.
What is upsetting about Ugandans is that while the Langi and Acholi suffered, many laughed thinking their turn would never come……. But wherever violence occurs in the state, it eventually overflows to everyone. By 1971 the fires of political violence that had been lit at Nakulabye were spreading into the rural areas of Apac, Lira and Gulu. Soon they would scorch all the land.
Thousands of people in Uganda were tortured by government agents. Detainees might be made to go through humiliating muscular ordeals such as “hopping like a frog” while being beaten. The victim’s eyes might be gouged out and left hanging out of their sockets. During the “wheel torture,” the victim’s head was put in a wheel-rim that was repeatedly struck with iron bars. People were beaten with hammers, mallets, or iron bars to break their limbs as well as kill them. Wires were attached to the victim’s genitals, nipples, or other sensitive parts of the body and then connected to an electric battery or wall socket. Women were raped or otherwise sexually abused. Prisoners were slashed with knives and bayonets, body organs were mutilated and limbs cut off. Prisoners might be lined up and every second one would be ordered to hammer the first to death, the second one would be ordered to hammer the first to death, the second would be hammered by the third, and so on, until only one was left to tell the tale to other prisoners. Such incidents often happened at Makindye prison. There were by no means the only forms of torture; there were many others.
Important or prominent people were killed like other prisoners. However, their bodies were dismembered and parts used for ritual purposes. For example, the head of Brigadier Suleiman Husein, who was killed at Makindye, was cut off and taken to Amin, who is reported to have addressed it and kept it in a fridge. The penis of Colonel Mesesura Arach, commander of the First Infrantry, was severed and plugged into his mouth. Few victims were given a proper burial. Their bodies were thrown into rivers (such as the Nile at karuma, Jinja and other places), Kioga, Wamala, etc.), in mass graves, or burnt in their houses or cars. Michael Kagwa’s body was left in his burnt car, as was the body of Father Clement Kiggundu, editor of Munno, a daily.
For much of the 1970’s, the beefy, sadistic and telegenic despot had revelled in the spotlight of world attention as he flaunted his tyrannical power, hurled outlandish insults at world leaders and staged pompous displays of majesty.
By contrast, his later years were spent in enforced isolation as the Saudi Arabian authorities made sure he maintained a low profile. Mr. Amin, a convert to Islam, his wives and more than 30 children fled Uganda just ahead of an invading force of Ugandan exiles and Tanzanian troops that overthrew his government. They went first to Libya, and eventually to Saudi Arabia.
By the time he had escaped with his life, the devastation he had wreaked lay fully exposed in the scarred ruins of Uganda. The number of people he caused to be killed has been tabulated by exiles and international human rights groups as close to a 500,000 out of a total population of 12 million.
Those murdered were mostly anonymous people: farmers, students, clerks and shopkeepers who were shot or forced to bludgeon one another to death by members of death squads, including the chillingly named Public Safety Unit and the State Research Bureau. Along with the military police, these forces numbering 18,000 men were recruited largely from Mr. Amin’s home region. They often chose their victims because they wanted their money, houses or women, or because the tribal groups the victims belonged to were marked for humiliation.
But there were also many hundreds of prominent men and women among the dead. Their killings were public affairs carried out in ways that were meant to attract attention, terrorize the living and convey the message that it was Mr. Amin who wanted them killed. They included cabinet ministers, Supreme Court judges, diplomats, university rectors, educators, prominent Catholic and Anglican churchmen, hospital directors, surgeons, bankers, tribal leaders and business executives.
In addition to Ugandans, the dead also included some foreigners, among them Dora Bloch, a 73-year-old woman. She was dragged from a Kampala hospital and killed in 1976 after Israeli commandoes raided Entebbe Airport to rescue 100 other Israelis who along with her had been taken as hostages from a hijacked Air France plane.
As an awareness of spreading horror and suffering filtered out of Uganda, Mr. Amin began to address the criticism, choosing words that intentionally added insult to injury. He declared that Hitler had been right to kill six million Jews. Having already called Julius Nyerere, then the president of Tanzania, a coward, an old woman and a prostitute, he announced that he loved Mr. Nyerere and ”would have married him if he had been a woman.” He called Kenneth Kaunda, then the president of Zambia, an ”imperialist puppet and bootlicker” and Henry A. Kissinger ”a murderer and a spy.” He said he expected Queen Elizabeth to send him ” her 25-year-old knickers” in celebration of the silver anniversary of her coronation.
In other comments he offered to become king of Scotland and lead his Celtic subjects to independence from Britain. He forced white residents of Kampala to carry him on a throne and kneel before him as photographers captured the moment for the world to see. He also ejected Peace Corps volunteers and the United States marines who had guarded the American Embassy in Kampala.
Mr. Amin’s flagrant brutality, coupled with his seemingly erratic behavior and calculating insults, aroused disgust but also fascination far beyond Uganda’s borders. Some African nationalists cheered his insults of Europeans. Radical Arabs, led by Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, actively courted him as an ally, and for a time so did the Soviet Union. But there were others who questioned his sanity. Harold Wilson, the leader of the British Labor Party, called him ”mentally unbalanced.” Mr. Kaunda described him as ”a madman, a buffoon.”
Many, however, who had observed him long and carefully from close quarters warned against such judgments. ”Capricious, impulsive, violent and aggressive he certainly is, but to dismiss him as just plain crazy is to underestimate his shrewdness, his ruthless cunning and his capacity to consolidate power with calculated terror,” wrote Christopher Munnion, a reporter for The Daily Telegraph, after he was detained at the notorious Makindye military barracks, where four of his cellmates, former police officers, were killed with sledge hammers.
By the time he was deposed in 1979, Amin officially had five ‘First Ladies’ and a number of mistresses to choose from whenever he had a state function. He also fathered 43 known children, who are now scattered all over the world.
Malyamu was the first of Amin’s wives. Malyamu, from Busoga, was from a prominent family of the Kibedi’s, a well-known school headmaster and brother of Wanume Kibedi, who later became Minister of Foreign Affairs in Amin’s government.
Malyamu was described in different accounts as being tall and beautiful with a self-assured walk that wowed the heavily built boxing champion.
But although they met in 1953, Amin did not ‘officially’ marry her until 1966. Amin, however, ‘divorced’ her in 1973.
“The family did not want her to get involved with Amin,” a family source said. However, Malyamu, thought otherwise.
Kay (Adroa) Admin
She became ‘First Lady’ number two in 1966. She was a Christian and a daughter of the Reverend Adroa of Arua. According to different sources, Amin wanted to marry a ‘girl’ from his home area, West Nile. His eyes settled on Kay Adroa, a black beauty. By the time he met her, she was a student at Makerere University. Like in Malyamu’s case, Amin did not marry her in Church. Instead, a ceremony was held at the registrar’s office were the marriage was sealed. The function at the registry was followed by a splendid reception at which Amin showed his ‘second wife’ to the country. However, Amin ‘officially’ divorced her in 1973.
In August 1974 (the exact date is uncertain), Kay Amin’s body was discovered in the truck of a car, dismembered and sewn back together in a crude fashion. The car was owned by Peter Mbalu Mukasa, a doctor with whom Kay Amin is rumoured to have had an affair. The doctor’s body was found the day before, and it was ruled that he had committed suicide.
Two theories have circulated regarding Kay Amin’s death. The first is that Idi Amin had her killed because of her alleged affair with Dr. Mukasa.
The second theory claims that Kay Amin died during a botched abortion that was being performed by Dr. Mukasa; according to this theory, Mukasa dismembered her to hide the actual cause of her death. Mukasa’s suicide is thought to have stemmed from panic over what he had done, and over the impending consequences if he were to be caught. According to various sources, Kay Amin’s autopsy suggested that she was three or four months pregnant at the time of her death. In a bizarre manner, Amin took the children, to view the body.
It did not take him long to realise that he wanted ‘First Lady’ number three. This time, he went to Lango and picked out a belle called Nora in 1967. Amin divorced her too in 1973. Nora fled to Zaire in 1979; her current whereabouts are unknown.
In September 1972, Big Daddy took on ‘First Lady’ number four, Madina. This time, Amin picked on a Muganda who completed his quest to have a wife from four of Uganda’s five regions. Madina, the first Muslim woman of the lot was a renowned dancer with a traditional music group called the Heart-beat of Africa. Her dancing prowess are said to have been able to move mountains just by twisting her waist. “She was such an eye-catching dancer that every man had his eyes on her. It was largely because of this that Amin noticed her and declared her ‘First Lady’ number four. She stayed with him until his regime collapsed. When Amin fell sick in 2003, the Government of Uganda supported Madina to go and look after him in Saudi Arabia.
Sarah, Amin’s fifth and “favourite” wife, went by the title Lady Sarah Kyobala Idi Amin. She was once nicknamed “Suicide Sarah” because of her former career as a go-go dancer for the Ugandan army’s Revolutionary Suicide Mechanised Regiment Band.
Like Madina, Sarah was a wonderful dancer with the army’s band. It was during these dance routines that Amin took note of her. Sarah was then in love with a young man in Masaka. In 1974 and on Christmas day, she delivered a baby, not by Amin, but by the young man she lived with. However, Amin made a radio announcement declaring the baby as his own. Sarah’s boyfriend later vanished.
Before she met Amin, she was living with a boyfriend, Jesse Gitta; he vanished and it is not clear if he was beheaded, or detained after fleeing to Kenya.
She and Amin were officially married in August 1975, during the Organisation of African Union summit in Kampala.
She married Amin after he was taken by her performance when she was 19. At the couple’s £2m wedding in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, in 1975, the future Palestinian president Yasser Arafat was best man. Amin, a one-time heavyweight boxing champion and soldier in the British colonial army, is said to have cut the wedding cake with a sword.
Sarah remained with Amin long after he was overthrown. In 1982 Sarah, however, left Amin in Saudi Arabia and sought refuge in Germany. By then, she had just got her third child with Big Daddy. The son was named Faisal Wangita. In Germany, she did some work as a model. Later, Sarah moved to the UK were she started a restaurant.
In 1999 she avoided a jail sentence after pleading guilty to allowing cockroaches and mice to overrun her east London cafe, Krishna’s.
In 2007 Faisal was involved in the gang murder of an 18-year-old Somali man in Camden, and was convicted of conspiracy to wound. He was jailed for five years and later deported back to Uganda.
In later years Sarah continued to defend Amin. Following his death from kidney failure in 2003, she said he had been a “true African hero” and a “wonderful father”.
“He was just a normal person, not a monster. He was a jolly person, very entertaining and kind,” she said in an interview. “I learned a lot of things from him, not because I was married to him but as a growing woman … things like leadership, self-confidence and initiative.”
Sarah Kyolaba died, in North London, in 2015, after a battle with cancer.
In 1974, however, Amin stunned the world when he ‘divorced’ three of the ‘first ladies’ over the radio. In a recorded statement he said, ‘I divorce thee,’ and that was it. Amin accused the first ‘two senior First Ladies’ of getting involved in business. And that Kay, had turned out to be his cousin! However, with Malyamu, the other reason was probably Amin’s fall out with her brother Wanume Kibedi, who had fled the country. “But there were also reports that because these women had been abandoned by Amin, they had ‘found’ other men to ‘spend’ time with,” says a source that worked as a journalist at the time. This is why it later emerged that Kay may have taken on a lover. Malyamu was in 1974 involved in a ‘suspicious’ motor accident in which she broke a leg and an arm. She was in hospital until 1975 when she left the country for good. As far as Kay was concerned, after a year of ‘interventions’ by the family, she died under unclear circumstances.
The self-proclaimed “President for life” ruled Uganda for far less time than he hoped, but the eight years of his tenure were filled with gross human-rights violations, ethnic persecution — tens of thousands of Ugandans of Indian origin were forced out of the country — killings and unbridled corruption. After alienating many of his supporters during a period of increasingly erratic behaviour in the late 1970s, Amin found himself nearly alone at the top. A group of his troops turned against him and, bolstered by a Tanzanian military force and Ugandan exiles, brought him down. He fled to Libya, where his supporter Muammar Gaddafi awaited him, and 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.
Amin remained in Saudi Arabia, where he died in 2003, remorseless and angry at his country’s betrayal.
On 19 July 2003, one of Amin’s wives, Madina, reported that he was in a coma and near death at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from kidney failure. She pleaded with the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, to allow him to return to Uganda for the remainder of his life. Museveni replied that Amin would have to “answer for his sins the moment he was brought back”. Amin’s family decided to disconnect life support and Amin died at the hospital in Jeddah on 16 August 2003. He was buried in Ruwais Cemetery in Jeddah in a simple grave without any fanfare. After Amin’s death, David Owen revealed that when he was the British Foreign Secretary, he had proposed having Amin assassinated. He has defended this, arguing: “I’m not ashamed of considering it, because his regime goes down in the scale of Pol Pot as one of the worst of all African regimes.”