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Idi Amin Dada was a Ugandan military officer who served as the President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. He is commonly known as the “Butcher of Uganda” as he is considered one of the most brutal despots in world history.

Idi Amin was born in Koboko to a Kakwa father and Lugbara mother. He joined the British Colonial Army (under the King’s Army Rifles) as a cook. He would later rise to the rank of lieutenant, participating in British actions against Somali rebels in the Shifta War and then the Mau Mau rebels in Kenya.

After Uganda’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, Idi Amin remained in the country’s armed forces, where he rose to the rank of Major and was later appointed Commander of the Uganda Army in 1965.

In 1971, aware of a plan by the incumbent president Milton Obote to arrest him on grounds of misappropriation of funds,he launched a military coup and declared himself President.

In 1975, Amin became the chairman of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now African Union, a Pan-Africanist group designed to promote solidarity among African states. Uganda was a member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights from 1977 to 1979.

In 1977, the United Kingdom dissociated herself and broke diplomatic relations with Uganda, as a result of the ills of Idi Amin’s rulership. Afterwards, Idi Amin declared that he had defeated the British and added “CBE” to his title for “Conqueror of the British Empire”.

As Idi Amin’s rule progressed into the late 1970s, there was increased unrest against his persecution of certain ethnic groups and political dissidents, along with Uganda’s very poor international standing due to Amin’s support for the terrorist hijackers in Operation Entebbe.

Idi Amin’s rule was characterized by rampant human rights abuses, including political repression, ethnic persecution and extrajudicial killings, as well as nepotism, corruption, and gross economic mismanagement. International observers and human rights groups estimate that between 100,000 and 500,000 people were killed under his regime.


In 1978, Idi Amin attempted to annex Tanzania’s Kagera Region, which then prompted the then Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere to send his troops to invade Uganda, capturing the capital city of Kampala on 11 April 1979. Idi Amin was ousted from power and went into exile, first in Libya, then Iraq, and finally in Saudi Arabia, where he lived until his death on 16 August 2003.

In 1977, a split in the Uganda Army developed between supporters of Amin and soldiers loyal to the Ugandan Vice-President, General Mustafa Adrisi, who held significant power in the government and wanted to purge foreigners, particularly Sudanese, from the military.

By 1978, the number of Idi Amin’s supporters and close associates had shrunk significantly, and he faced increasing dissent from the populace within Uganda as the economy and infrastructure collapsed as a result of the years of neglect and abuse.

After the killings of Bishop Luwum and ministers Oryema and Oboth Ofumbi in 1977, several of Amin’s ministers defected or fled into exile. In early 1978, Adrisi was severely injured in a car accident and flown to Cairo for treatment.

While there, Idi Amin stripped him of his positions as Minister of Defense and Minister of Home Affairs and denounced him for retiring senior prison officials without his knowledge. Idi Amin then proceeded to purge several high-ranking officials from his government, thereby taking personal control of several ministerial portfolios.

This new arrangement caused political unrest and especially angered Adrisi’s followers, who believed that the car accident was a failed assassination attempt.

It was shortly after Idi Amin’s “cabinet” began to fall apart that he attempted the annexation of the Kangera Region in Tanzania, which ultimately became his undoing.

In January 1979, Julius Nyerere mobilized the Tanzania People’s Defence Force and counterattacked, joined by several groups of Ugandan exiles who had united as the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA).

Though Idi Amin’s army retreated steadily, he was forced to flee into exile by helicopter on 11 April 1979 after Kampala was captured despite military help from Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

He escaped first to Libya, where he stayed until 1980, and ultimately settled in Saudi Arabia, where the Saudi royal family allowed him sanctuary and paid him a generous subsidy in return for staying out of politics.

While in exile, Idi Amin funded remnants of his army who fought in the Ugandan Bush War. Though he continued to be a controversial figure, some of Amin’s former followers as well as several rebel groups continued to fight in his name for decades, occasionally advocating his amnesty.

In 1989, Amin left his exile without authorization by the Saudi Arabian government, and flew alongside one of his sons to Zaire with the intention of attempting the re-conquering of a Civil War plagued Uganda.

This plan however failed as he was refused entry by authorities in Zaire and upon appeal made on his behalf by the King of Morocco, was allowed to return to Saudi Arabia.

He consequently spent the remainder of his life peacefully and quietly in Saudi Arabia. During interviews he gave during his exile in Saudi Arabia, Idi Amin held that Uganda needed him, and never expressed remorse for the brutal nature of his regime.


On 19 July 2003, Idi Amin was reportedly in a coma and near death at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from kidney failure.

His family pleaded with the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, to allow him to return to Uganda for the remainder of his life. Museveni responded that Idi Amin would have to answer for his atrocities upon his arrival back in Uganda. This did not please Idi Amin’s family, and they eventually decided to disconnect Idi Amin from life support.

He consequently died at the hospital in Jeddah on 16 August 2003. He was buried in Ruwais Cemetery in Jeddah in a simple grave, without any fanfare.

By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi

Oluwamayowa Akinyemi

Oluwamayowa Akinyemi is a digital and web content developer with experience in web content development and management as well as research and writing. He is an avid reader of random subject matters and a sucker for movies and video games. He is also passionate about youth empowerment and is a global affairs analyst and enthusiast.