Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Today marks 40 years since General, Idi Amin Dada, the former president of Uganda was overthrown from government. General Amin took over government after overthrowing President, Apolo Milton Obote in January 1971.
General Amin left a contentious and conflicted legacy with many calling him a villain while some remember him as a nationalist. Many who lived through Amin’s regime from 1971 to 1979 describe him as a ruthless dictator whose leadership was characterized by terror, massacres and lawlessness.
At the height of his reign, Amin expelled 40,000 Asians from Uganda when he gave them ninety days to leave the country. His critics claim that an estimated 500,000 people were killed during his reign.
However, those who didn’t witness Amin’s brutality, say he was a nation builder who put the interests of Ugandans first. They claim that Amin set up an all-inclusive cabinet, ensured balanced development across the country and stood for Africans.
Amin, who declared himself President for Life, King of Scotland and conqueror of the British Empire was seen as a nationalist who freed Ugandans from Asian dominance and nationalized foreign companies.
His eight year rule came to an end in 1979 when Ugandan exiles backed by the Tanzanian army attacked Kampala. Amin fled to exile in Libya and later Saudi Arabia, where he lived until his death in August 2003.
40 years after his overthrow, some Ugandans think Amin left a big lesson for Uganda.
Nathan Irumba is a retired diplomat who served in five Governments and as a Special Assistant to Sam Odaka, former Foreign Minister in Obote’s government.
He says Amin was a conspiracy of foreign forces that encouraged him to stage a coup against Obote who had made a lot of mistakes.
Irumba says Amin’s reign marked the beginning of political murders in Uganda; first by targeting Langi and Acholi officers who were seen as a threat to his government.
He says one thing Uganda can learn from Amin is that the rights of citizens must be respected and that the law of the land should be supreme.
Irumba says Amin was misled by his confidants who only told him what he wanted to hear.