(b. West Nile, Uganda, 1925; d. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 16 Aug. 2003)
Ugandan; army commander 1966–71, head of state 1971–9 A member of the Kakwa ethnic group from north-west Uganda, Idi Amin Dada received little formal education and remained largely illiterate. He joined the colonial army in 1946, fought against Mau Mau in Kenya, and was heavyweight boxing champion of Uganda 1951–60. He became an officer as part of the Africanization of the army, and his close association with President Obote after independence in 1962 led to rapid promotion. Obote used Amin to suppress his domestic opponents, but came to fear him, and was about to replace him when Amin launched a pre-emptive coup in January 1971.
Despite benefiting from widespread dissatisfaction with Obote's rule, Amin soon lost support and ruled almost entirely by terror and coercion. Externally, he became a symbol of brutality, powerfully contributing to a declining sympathy for African rulers and to demands for human rights in Africa. Domestically, an estimated 300,000 Ugandans were killed by his government, and Amin was personally associated with the murder of opponents who included the Anglican Archbishop. The economy collapsed, not least as the result of the expulsion in 1972 of the Asian business community.
His eventual fall resulted from an ill-advised invasion of neighbouring Tanzania in 1978. Despite armed Libyan assistance, his army collapsed in the face of a Tanzanian counter-attack, aided by Ugandan exiles; in April 1979 he fled, first to Libya and then to Saudi Arabia, leaving Uganda in complete shambles.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — African Studies.