|Idi Amin Dada
Very little is known about Idi
Amin's birth and early life, as no official
biography was ever written. Some sources say he
was born in Koboko, West Nile Province, in either
1924 or 1925, while others say he was born in
Kampala on May 17, 1928. It is believed that he
was raised by his maternal family, was educated
at an Islamic school, and did odd jobs before
being recruited into the British Colonial Army.
Amin joined the King's African
Rifles in 1946 as a laundry and kitchen staffer,
and transferred to Kenya for infantry service in
1947. He served in Kenya until 1949, when he was
deployed in Somalia to fight cattle raiders. In
1952 his unit was deployed against the Mau Mau.
He was promoted to Corporal that same year, to
Sergeant in 1953, and to Warrant Officer (the
highest rank possible for Black Africans in the
Colonial Army) in 1954. In 1961 he became one of
the first two Ugandans to become commissioned
officers, with the rank of Lieutenant. During his
time in the army, Amin showcased his physical
strength by holding Uganda's light heavyweight
boxing championship from 1951 to 1960.
After Uganda attained
independence in October 1962, Prime Minister
Milton Obote rewarded Amin for his loyalty by
promoting him to Captain in 1963. Amin was
subsequently promoted to Deputy Commander of the
Army in 1964, and to General and Commander of the
Army in 1966.
Amin seized power in a coup on
January 25, 1971, while Obote was attending a
Commonwealth summit meeting in Singapore. He
began his reign by freeing many political
prisoners and disbanding the secret police,
actions which made him a popular figure within
both Uganda and the international community. His
popularity would not last, however.
Over the course of his rule,
Amin became known around the world for his
cruelty, as well as his many eccentricities.
Although exact figures are not known, it is
believed that he was responsible for the deaths
of up to 300,000 Ugandans. He had strong ties to
the Palestine Liberation Organization, and was
believed to have been personally involved in the
hijacking of an Air France Airbus in 1976 (an
incident that was subsequently dramatized in the
movie Raid on Entebbe). He frequently
exaggerated his military career, going so far as
to have his suit coats custom-made in order to
accomodate all of the medals he awarded himself.
But it was his ill-fated invasion of Tanzania
that would prove to be Amin's undoing.
In October 1978, Amin, with the
help of Libyan troops, tried to annex the
northern Tanzanian province of Kagera. Tanzania
then declared war on Uganda. On April 11, 1979,
Amin was forced to flee Kampala when the
Tanzanian army, aided by Ugandan exiles and
mutineers from the Ugandan army, took the city.
He fled first to Libya, and then to Saudi Arabia.
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. He died in Saudi Arabia on August 16,
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