Idi Amin Orders Author Executed (02:54)
This episode of “The Dictator’s Playbook” examines the murderous regime of Uganda’s Idi Amin, who slaughtered an estimated 300,000 citizens. Amin ordered the execution of English author Denis Hills in June 1975, but the British government intervened on the writer’s behalf. Was Amin a buffoonish tyrant, or was there method to his madness?
British Colonial Rule (04:40)
British explorers began arriving in the 19th century, lured by coffee, tobacco and gold. The British Protectorate of Uganda was established in 1894. The British saw native Ugandans as inferior and gave them little political power. Despite being illiterate, Amin rose through the ranks of the King’s African Rifles, the military muscle behind the British colonial establishment.
Mau Mau Uprising (03:23)
The Mau Mau, an alliance of tribesmen that were fed up with colonial abuses, began staging armed attacks on British-owned farms and properties in 1952. Amin was among African soldiers that the British tasked with squashing the rebellion. He developed a reputation for ruthlessness that pleased his commanding officers.
Ugandan Independence (03:40)
The rebellion was all but crushed by 1960. That year, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan announced that Britain would grant independence to all of its African colonies. Amin was commissioned as a lieutenant, and independence paved the way for him to rise higher in the military’s ranks that he had ever imagined.
Milton Obote and Defeat of Buganda (04:57)
Amin allied himself with newly elected Prime Minister Milton Obote. Their first major threat was from Kabaka Mutesa II, leader of the subnational kingdom of Buganda, who called for regime change based on charges of corruption. The rebellion was put down, allowing Obote to consolidate power and Amin to gain control of the Ugandan army.
Amin Stages Coup (04:26)
Amin would do whatever it took to protect his position and began recruiting support from his home region. Obote felt he had enough support to move against his disloyal commander by 1971 and ordered Amin’s arrest while abroad. But his order was intercepted and relayed to Amin who mounted a successful coup, forcing Obote into exile in neighboring Tanzania.
Bloody Reign of Terror (11:14)
Once in power, Amin launched a nationwide charm offensive to win the hearts of suspicious Ugandans. He promised a better future and a return to democracy; but instead, he claimed the presidency for himself and used secret police to round up, torture and murder suspected Obote loyalists. Public executions became commonplace.
Amin Expels Asians (06:30)
Amin sought to unite Ugandans behind a common enemy. He ordered the expulsion of the country’s entire South Asian population in August 1972 and seized his victim’s assets. Amin’s move was condemned by international media, but loyalists praised him as a champion of black African rights. The impact on the economy was disastrous, and crime spiked.
Amin Picks Fights with World Leaders (03:48)
Amin sought to distract from his failed policies by launching a public war of words with the outside world. He sent a series of lewd and controversial telegrams to other world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II and President Richard Nixon. The press labeled Amin a buffoon, but followers reveled in seeing him stand up to the West.
Amin Invades Tanzania (07:44)
Amin’s government was nearly bankrupt by 1978, and his underfunded military was increasingly out of control. Obote recruited Ugandan confederates from Tanzania before Amin invaded the neighboring country. Tanzanian forces struck back and stormed the Ugandan capital. Amin fled the country on April 11, 1979, finding refuge in Saudi Arabia. He died of kidney failure in 2003.
Credits: Idi Amin (00:32)
Credits: Idi Amin
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