Idi Amin Dada, who became known as the "Butcher of Uganda" for his brutal, despotic rule whilst president of Uganda in the 1970s, is possibly the most notorious of all Africa"s post-independence dictators. Amin seized power in a military coup in 1971 and ruled over Uganda for 8 years. Estimates for the number of his opponents who were either killed, tortured, or imprisoned vary from 100,000 to half a million.
He was ousted in 1979 by Ugandan nationalists, after which he fled into exile.
Date of birth: 1925, near Koboko, West Nile province, Uganda
Date of death: 16 August 2003, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
An Early Life
Idi Amin Dada was born in 1925 near Koboko, in the West Nile Province of what is now the Republic of Uganda. Deserted by his father at an early age, he was brought up by his mother, a herbalist and diviner. He was a member of the Kakwa ethnic group, a small Islamic tribe that was settled in the region.
Success in the King"s African Rifles
Idi Amin received little formal education: sources are unclear whether or not he attended the local missionary school. However, in 1946 he joined the King"s African Rifles, KAR (Britain"s colonial African troops), and served in Burma, Somalia, Kenya (during the British suppression of the Mau Mau) and Uganda. Although he was considered a skilled, and somewhat overeager, soldier, Amin developed a reputation for cruelty - he was almost cashiered on several occasions for excessive brutality during interrogations.
He rose through the ranks, reaching sergeant-major before finally being made an effendi, the highest rank possible for a Black African serving in the British army. Amin was also an accomplished sportsman, holding Uganda"s light heavyweight boxing championship from 1951 to 1960.
A Hint of What was to Come?
As Uganda approached independence Idi Amin"s close colleague Apolo Milton Obote, the leader of the Uganda People"s Congress (UPC), was made chief minister, and then prime minister.
Obote had Amin, one of only two high ranking Africans in the KAR, appointed as