The Killer and The Clown

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idi.jpgUganda’s light heavyweight boxing champion from 1951 to 1960, the highest ranking Black African serving in the British army, the His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin. The 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 Dada was the President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Some called him ‘The Last King of Scotland’; others called him ‘The Butcher of Uganda’. No one knows who he really was, a psychotic military ruler or an over-confident president who considered himself as the paramount figure of power.

He once said that,” In any country there must be people who have to die. They are sacrifices every nation has to make in order to achieve law and order.” This was the justification he gave for his actions in press for mass murders during his regime in Uganda.His journey began in 1946 when he was enrolled in the services in the King’s African Rifles of the British Colonial Army. In 1954, he was made effendi, the highest rank by a Black African in the British army. There was no looking back after then; in 1961 he was promoted to the rank of a lieutenant, in 1962, to captain and he went on to become the Army Commander. However, there is a lot more to him than his rising promotional rate, it is his regime which caught the world’s attention.Idi Amin was a man so unpredictable, erratic and a true despot that people stared at this President of Uganda with surprise, oblivious of how they should respond. He seized power from Prime Minister Milton Obote in 1971 and took the charge of the President of Uganda. Amin announced that the military rule would be a temporary and he would only be a caretaker of the state till the next elections that will be held to bring back democracy. He released political prisoners, gave a state burial to the ex-king who died in exile and addressed his people by saying that he is a solider, not a politician.His power was welcomed by both, the Ugandans as well as the international community. Little did they know what was in store for them in the future. Human rights commission says that almost 1,00,000 people where killed in his regime, the actual count goes higher than 5,00,000. He adopted violent measures to suppress the revolt by the supporters of Obote and communists, killed innocent people, plundered villages. Some say that he was so unpredictable that he also killed his health minister and closest advisor when an assassination attempt was made on him in 1972.In 1972, Obote and his supporters stormed in Uganda to regain power. Amin retaliated against the attempted invasion by purging the army of Obote supporters. The soldiers were massacred and at least twice number of civilians disappeared.The killings, motivated by ethnic, political and financial factors, continued throughout Amin’s eight-year reign. The exact number of people killed is unknown. The International Commission of Jurists estimated the death toll at no fewer than 80,000 and more likely around 3,00,000. An estimate compiled by exile organizations with the help of Amnesty International puts the number killed at 5,00,000.In 1972, Amin declared expropriation of properties owned by Asians and Europeans. He expelled 60,000 Asians for having a British passport. In 1976, he allowed an Air France hijacked plane by Palestinians to land at the Entebbe Airport. His rule also gave in way to tensions between Uganda and Kenya.His outspoken behaviour in free press gave way to lot of rumors about his personal life. Some say that he killed his second wife, Kay, when he found out that she was cheating on him and mutilated her body.There were also talks about him being a cannibal. He once told a journalist, “I have tasted human flesh, and it is salty, more salty than leopard’s flesh.” The US ambassador termed him a “racist, erratic and unpredictable, brutal, inept, bellicose, irrational, ridiculous, and militaristic”.He died in exile in 2003 in Jeddah. Till his last breath, he believed that Uganda needed him and didn’t feel guilty for all the crimes he had committed. The world has witnessed many dictators, from Mussolini to Adolf Hitler, from Saddam Hussain to Amil Imani Mullahs. The first two were ethnocentric, the latter were despotic rulers, and Idi Amin was a mix of both.

Aakanksha Ahluwalia

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