40 years After Amin's Overthrow, Has Uganda learnt Anything?

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Nathan Irumba is a retired diplomat who served in five Governments and Special Assistant to Sam Odaka, Obote’s former Foreign Minister. He says Amin was a conspiracy of foreign forces that encouraged him to stage a coup against Obote who had made a lot of mistakes.
Idi Amin Dada

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Today marks 40 years since General, Idi Amin Dada, the former president of Uganda was overthrown from government. General Amin took over government after overthrowing President, Apolo Milton Obote in January 1971. 

General Amin left a contentious and conflicted legacy with many calling him a villain while some remember him as a nationalist.  Many who lived through Amin’s regime from 1971 to 1979 describe him as a ruthless dictator whose leadership was characterized by terror, massacres and lawlessness.  

At the height of his reign, Amin expelled 40,000 Asians from Uganda when he gave them ninety days to leave the country. His critics claim that an estimated 500,000 people were killed during his reign. 


However, those who didn’t witness Amin’s brutality, say he was a nation builder who put the interests of Ugandans first. They claim that Amin set up an all-inclusive cabinet, ensured balanced development across the country and stood for Africans.     

Amin, who declared himself President for Life, King of Scotland and conqueror of the British Empire was seen as a nationalist who freed Ugandans from Asian dominance and nationalized foreign companies.   

His eight year rule came to an end in 1979 when Ugandan exiles backed by the Tanzanian army attacked Kampala. Amin fled to exile in Libya and later Saudi Arabia, where he lived until his death in August 2003.


40 years after his overthrow, some Ugandans think Amin left a big lesson for Uganda.

Nathan Irumba is a retired diplomat who served in five Governments and as a Special Assistant to Sam Odaka, former Foreign Minister in Obote's government. 


He says Amin was a conspiracy of foreign forces that encouraged him to stage a coup against Obote who had made a lot of mistakes.  

Irumba says Amin’s reign marked the beginning of political murders in Uganda; first by targeting  Langi and Acholi officers who were seen as a threat to his government.  

He says one thing Uganda can learn from Amin is that the rights of citizens must be respected and that the law of the land should be supreme. 

Irumba says Amin was misled by his confidants who only told him what he wanted to hear. 

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In terms of development, Irumba says Amin retarded Uganda’s progress since he killed the ethos of civil service.  

According to Irumba, the same thing is happening in today’s leadership where systems are dying and civil servants first imagine what the president wants.

He however, says Amin ruled by decree compared to today where courts, parliament and constitution are in place.


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Professor Ndebesa Mwambutsya, a history lecturers at Makerere University, says Uganda has forgotten Amin’s history and might repeat the same mistakes.

He says the State Research Bureau where many Ugandans were killed was transformed into the headquarters of the Internal Security Organization, which is unfortunate.     


He says this makes it seem like a continuity of the past brutality. 

Mwambutsya says the place should have been turned into a monument as opposed to being transformed into an office for another security agency. 

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According to Mwambutsya, despite the fact that there is great improvement compared to Amin’s regime, all isn’t well.         

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Sanjiv Patel is a Ugandan of Indian descent whose family was among those expelled and lost a lot of property. 

He says the world concentrated on the expulsion of Asians and didn’t portray the death of many Ugandans.        

Patel urges the new generation of Ugandans to learn from the expulsion of Asians and understand the fact that people should coexist. 

He says bad leadership breeds rebellion as seen in different parts of the world. According to Patel, Uganda is free today compared to Amin's regime. 

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Dr. Rajni Taylor,  an ex- minister in Buganda Kingdom and Ugandan of Indian origin, says Amin did bad to  expel Asians and give Ugandans their businesses when they were not ready. 

He says this sank the economy and neither benefited the citizens not the economy.

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The Former Ethics Minister, James Nsaba Buturo says isolation and insecurity are part of the things that can lead to the Amin like era.


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Sarah Opendi, the State Minister General Duties, says Amin targeted particular tribes in the country, something that isn’t with the current Government.    

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Kassiano Wadri, the Arua Municipality MP, says Amin left the country without debt, adding that even Uganda Airlines and entire transport system was working.

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Jaffar Amin, the first son of Amin, says his father’s legacy is misrepresented in different narratives by the western world. He says Amin gave back the country to Ugandans by dealing away with imperialism.  

He says Amin empowered Ugandans and Africans despite the controversies that marred his leadership.

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He says under Amin, Uganda was blossoming.      

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Jaffar Amin says that he hopes he will try and reconcile with the people that were affected by his father’s leadership.   

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