Obote took refuge in Tanzania, from where, in 1972, he attempted unsuccessfully to regain the country through a military coup. Obote supporters within the Ugandan army, who were predominantly from the Acholi and Lango ethnic groups, were also involved in the coup. Amin responded by bombing Tanzanian towns, and purging the army of Acholi and Lango officers. The ethnic violence grew to include the whole of the army, and then Ugandan civilians, as Amin became increasingly paranoid. The Nile Mansions Hotel in Kampala became infamous as Amin's interrogation and torture center, and Amin is said to have moved residences regularly to avoid assassination attempts. Amin's killer squads, under the official titles of 'State Research Bureau' and 'Public Safety Unit' were responsible for tens of thousands of abductions, tortures and murders. Amin personally ordered the execution of the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Janani Luwum, the chief justice, the chancellor of Makerere College, governor of the Bank of Uganda, and several of his own parliamentary ministers.
Also in 1972, Amin declared "economic war" on Uganda's Asian population - they dominated Uganda's trade and manufacturing sectors, as well as forming a significant proportion of the civil service. Seventy thousand Asian holders of British passports were given three months to leave the country - the abandoned businesses were handed over to Amin's supporters. Amin severed diplomatic ties with Britain and 'nationalised' 85 British owned businesses. He also expelled Israeli military advisors, turning instead to Colonel Muammar Muhammad al-Gadhafi of Libya and the Soviet Union for support.
Links to the PLO
Idi Amin has been strongly linked to the Palestine Liberation Organisation, PLO. The abandoned Israeli embassy was offered to them as a potential headquarters; and it is believed that flight 139, the Air France A-300B Airbus hijacked from Athens in 1976, was invited by Amin to stop at Entebbe. The hijackers demanded the release of 53 PLO prisoners in return for the 256 hostages. On 3 July 1976 Israeli paratroopers attacked the airport and freed almost all the hostages. Uganda's air force was badly crippled during the raid as its fighter jets were destroyed to stop retaliation against Israel.
Amin -- the charismatic African Leader
Amin was considered by many to be a gregarious, charismatic leader, and was often portrayed by the international press as a popular African independence leader. In 1975 he was elected Chair of the Organisation of African Unity (though Julius Kambarage Nyerere, president of Tanzania, Kenneth David Kaunda , president of Zambia, and Seretse Khama, president of Botswana, did boycott the meeting). A United Nations condemnation was blocked by African heads of state.
Amin Becomes Increasingly Paranoid
Popular legend has Amin involved in Kakwa blood rituals and cannibalism. More authoritative sources suggest that he may have suffered from hypomania, a form of manic depression which is characterized by irrational behavior and emotional outbursts. As his paranoia became more pronounced he imported troops from Sudan and Zaire, until less than 25% of the army was Ugandan. As accounts of Amin's atrocities reached the international press, support for his regime faltered. (But only in 1978 did the United States shift its purchase of coffee from Uganda to neighboring states.) The Ugandan economy faltered and inflation reached an excess of 1,000 percent.
Ugandan Nationalists Reclaim the Nation
In October 1978, with the assistance of Libyan troops, Amin attempted to annex Kagera, the northern province of Tanzania (which shares a border with Uganda). The Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere, responded by sending troops into Uganda, and with the aid of rebel Ugandan forces, the Ugandan capital of Kampala was captured. Amin fled to Libya, where he stayed for almost ten years, before finally relocating to Saudi Arabia, where he remained in exile.
Death in Exile
On 16 August 2003 Idi Amin Dada, the 'Butcher of Uganda', died in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The cause of death was reported to be 'multiple organ failure'. Although the Ugandan government announced that his body could be buried in Uganda, he was quickly buried in Saudi Arabia. He was never tried for gross abuse of human rights.
This article first went live 24 July 2003 with the url Http://africanhistory.about.com/library/biographies/blbio-amin.htm.