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Biography of Idi Amin Dada

Updated on September 28, 2014

Africa, Idi Amin

Africa, Idi Amin
Africa, Idi Amin | Source

History of Idi Amin

He was a man who was greatly feared for his evil acts that left close to 300,000 people dead. These people included clergies, democrats, journalists, cabinet ministers, chief justice, civilians, and foreigners among others.

The cruelty that was practiced by this dictator was beyond imagination. He is a man believed to have promised crippled people he would help them despite their physical disabilities. According to those who lived to tell the story, he would pile the crippled people on a truck and take them near a river, and later, kill them; disposing their bodies in the water.

A story was recounted to me (by my upper level primary school teacher from Uganda) of how Idi Amin had visited a certain primary school in Uganda. The headmaster of the school was shot at point blank on the forehead. The cooks were commanded to cook parts of his body. Every student was required to have a bite of the meat. They had no choice. In case the pupils and staff refused, they would expect a bullet to penetrate their bodies.

According to many Ugandans during Idi Amin’s time- though there is still no evidence but it does not mean it never happened - it is believed this man was into occult or he was a cannibalistic. This was a result of skulls of humans, probably murdered Ugandans stored in the fridge together with parts of flesh and blood.

Idi Amin Rise to Power

Idi Amin was born between the years 1923 and 1925 in Kiboko. It is found in the northwest corner of Uganda. His father was a farmer who afterwards left his mother and siblings never to be seen.

It is believed his mother was a sorcerer from the tribe of Lugbara. His mother had children from other men, in total Amin was the sixth child.

Idi Amin had little formal education. This affected him negatively in his leadership as president of Uganda. This is because the methods he used to govern the people of Uganda was barbaric; not of a man who is well-educated to be regarded as civilized and able to lead the nation in a humanly manner.


In the year 1946 Idi Amin joined the Kings African Rifle (KAR) as an assistant cook. KAR was Britain’s colonial African troops. From a cook, Idi Amin rose to power, through ranks, to sergeant-major and platoon commander in 1958. By the year 1961, he had risen to the rank of lieutenant (only two Ugandans to had achieved this status).

Idi Amin served in various KAR missions including dealing with surge of Mau Mau fighters against the British colony in Kenya.

In 1962, his cruelty or barbarism started manifesting itself. His troop under his command was involved in ‘Turkana massacre’ in the north-eastern Kenya. His troop tortured, killed (by beating Turkana people to death) to the extent of burying some of them alive. He was sent there to settle or quell the conflict between Kenya pastoralists and the neighbouring tribesmen of northern Uganda as to the problem of cattle rustling.

When Uganda gained independence from Britain, the king of Baganda tribe declared himself the president and Idi Amin’s close friend Milton Obote was appointed the Prime Minister. Idi Amin’s rank was promoted to major in 1963 and colonel and deputy commander of the army and air force in 1964. In 1966, Milton Obote and Idi Amin were implicated in a deal to smuggle gold, coffee and Ivory out of Democratic Republic of Congo.

As a result the president, Edward Mutesa II commissioned a parliamentary committee to investigate the case. It was due to this opposition of the president against him that Obote installed himself to the seat of presidency by declaring himself the president. He arrested five Cabinet ministers and suspended the 1962 constitution. The king of Baganda, Mutesa II was forced into exile in Britain as he was driven from his palace by the military led by Idi Amin. A new constitution was created which brought an end to all the kingdoms in Uganda.

Subsequently, Amin was promoted to major-general and chief-staff of the army and air force.

During the months to follow, the relations between Idi Amin and Milton Obote soured. This as a result of an attempt to assassinate Obote was unsuccessful. Brigadier Pierino Okoye who was to hold a meeting scheduled on January 26, 1970 with Amin and Obote to reveal the perpetrators behind the unsuccessful attempt was shot dead together with his wife at his home. The murder of Okoya further aggravated the relations between Amin and Obote.

On January 1971, Amin on the realization Obote wanted to arrest him on charges of misusing military funds in their millions (dollars) planned on how he would overthrow Obote from the presidency seat. This led to the overthrow of Obote and Idi Amin declared he was the president of Uganda for life. This was done while Obote was overseas attending Commonwealth conference. It took place on January 25, 1971.

It is from this time he appointed himself as president that people of Uganda started experiencing the full force of his cruelty. Many Indians, Pakistanis and Britons were given short notice to leave the country. Many left their businesses behind which led to loss of value of Uganda’s currency as the economy started taking a toll.

During his first year reign he executed two-thirds of the army’s 9,000 soldiers. The number of Indians and Pakistanis who were expelled from the country towards the end of the year by Amin was in the range of 40,000-80,000.

As Amin’s barbaric rule manifested itself openly, British, American and Israelis governments stopped their support for Amin’s government.

Any tribe that was perceived to be rival and any supporter of Obote was arrested and were murdered without mercy. It is estimated between 100,000 to 200,000 Ugandans were murdered during his reign.

His cruelty extended to the fact an entire village was wiped out. The many dead bodies were thrown to River Nile.

The economy of Uganda continued to deteriorate as the size of Amin’s army was increased. The military consumed or spent much of the country’s budget. Civilians’ courts were replaced by military tribunals.


Idi Amin greed for power saw him attacking the western region of Kenya and claiming it as Uganda’s territory. This forced the then first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta to declare a state of emergency, and sending an army to reclaim the land back.

As if that was not enough, Amin went on to attack Tanzania.

In 1979 Idi Amin’s regime was overthrown by the Ugandans nationalists backed by Tanzanian forces. He was forced into exile, his first landing place being Libya. He was given a short stay before leaving for Saudi Arabia.

He died in the year 2003 at King Faisal hospital due to high blood pressure, hypertension, fatigue and kidney failure. He was buried in Jeddah’s Ruwais cemetery in Saudi Arabia, a few hours after his death.

Idi Amin’s third name, Dada, was a nickname he was given as a result of being seen with women. In short, he was a womanizer. Every time he was seen with a lady and asked who she was, he would say “This is my sister.” Dada is the Kiswahili word (spoken in East Africa) for Sister.

The below is the self-declared title of Idi Amin when he overthrew Obote’s rule and chased all whites from the country:

“His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts, of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.”


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