Amin Dada, Idi

ca. 1925–2003
Ugandan dictator

Idi Amin Dada, a member of the Nubi people, ruled UGANDA from 1971 to 1979. Regarded as one of Africa’s most ruthless leaders, Amin used murder as a political tool, and may have killed as many as 300,000 people during his reign.

Enlisting in the military as a young man, Amin advanced rapidly. He was one of the few black Ugandans to become an officer before Uganda won its independence in 1962. During the next six years, he reached the rank of major general and was named commander of both the army and the air force. Amin also became a close ally to Uganda’s first president, Milton OBOTE. After both men were accused of gold smuggling in 1966, Obote took total control of the country with the support of Amin and the military. However, Obote did not trust Amin and arrested him four years later.

In 1971, while Obote was out of the country, Amin led a coup and took over the office of president. Amin began by ridding the army of soldiers from Obote’s area of northern Uganda, replacing them with loyal troops. He seized foreign-owned businesses (mainly those owned by Indians) and gave them to his supporters. But the new owners looted the companies, leading to the ruin of Uganda’s economy. To maintain his power, Amin sought support from traditionally Muslim Arab countries and declared Islam Uganda’s official religion, though few Ugandans were Muslims.

Amin Dada, Idi

In 1976 Amin gained international attention when he allowed Palestinian hijackers to land a plane full of Israeli hostages at the capital of Entebbe. Israeli commandos later rescued the hostages. He received further attention a year later when several prominent people in Uganda were killed in suspicious circumstances.

In 1978 Amin invaded and seized Tanzanian territory, which led TANZANIA to attack Uganda the following year. Meanwhile, various groups in Uganda that opposed Amin united against him. These rebels joined with the Tanzanian army to defeat Amin’s troops, forcing him to flee the country in April 1979. Amin went into exile in Saudi Arabia.