Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Amin, Idi (1924?–2003)

Ugandan politician and military leader. Idi Amin Dada Oumee was born to a Muslim family in either 1924 or 1925 in the Kalwa tribe in Koboko, British Uganda. In 1961 he became one of Uganda's first commissioned army officers. Following Ugandan independence on 9 October 1962, he held the rank of major and worked closely with Prime Minister Milton Obote, who sent him abroad to oversee training programs. By 1970 Amin was head of the army.

After several years of strained relations with Obote, Amin launched a successful military coup on 25 January 1971, with widespread public support. Following several token gestures

to make his rule seem more democratic than that of Obote, Amin moved to eliminate political and tribal rivals, many of whom fled to Tanzania. In September 1972 the Tanzanian exiles unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow Amin.

In 1972 Amin expelled all Asians and nationalized British-owned businesses, damaging the Ugandan economy. His policies caused tense relations with the United States, Britain, and other Western countries, forcing him to turn to the Soviet Union for assistance. After expelling his Israeli advisors, Amin established cordial contacts in the Arab world, particularly with Libya and the Palestinians. In 1976 he conspired with Palestinian terrorists to hijack an Air France jetliner to Tel Aviv, forcing it to land in Entebbe, Uganda. Israeli commandos freed all but one hostage, killing the terrorists and several Ugandan soldiers.

As Amin's murderous wave of terror continued, Uganda's economy and society lay in tatters. Yet as Uganda slid further into chaos, Amin named himself field marshal in 1975 and president-for-life in 1976. In October 1978 he ordered an attack on Tanzania, which retaliated with an invasion of Uganda in early 1979. Aided by Ugandan exiles, Tanzanian forces advanced quickly, taking the capital city of Kampala in April 1979. Amin fled first to Libya and then to Jidda, Saudi Arabia, where he lived in exile and died on 16 August 2003.

Gregory C. Ference


Further Reading
Kyemba, Henry. A State of Blood: The Inside Story of Idi Amin. New York: Ace Books, 1977.
 

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