HOW IDI AMIN WAS FORCED TO BE PRESIDENT
On 24th January 1971, the mutineering soldiers at Mengo barracks were plotting their next move after taking the military facility (and the entire capital city) from Milton Obote’s loyalist soldiers.
For long the army had been divided between Obote’s tribes mates, and the rest of Uganda.
The previous day, the threat had become real when Obote’s group disarmed the rest of the soldiers at Mengo barracks, and locked them up in an attempt to murder and/or kick out all the non-Obote officers.
Being in fear for their lives, the imprisoned soldiers found their way out, broke into the armoury, fought back the whole night, and thwarted Obote’s plan.
They now controlled the entire capital city.
Gen. Idi Amin suddenly appeared at the Mengo barracks the next morning.
While the soldiers had expected a heavy military response, instead here was the head of the country’s army coming alone in his military jeep to listen to them.
This eased the tension and made the soldiers comfortable approaching him and talking to him.
As the Army commander, Gen. Amin had come seeking to understand what exactly caused the revolt. He wanted to assess the damage first hand, hear their grievances, and try to resolve the situation.
The discussion started off quite cordially. But the mood suddenly shifted when the topic changed to what the military code of conduct prescribed for mutineering soldiers.
Through the years, Amin would constantly narrate to us what happened next. He apparently also told Africa Report editor Anthony Hughes 4 years after the actual incident while being interviewed during the Kampala OAU summit: “I was held at gun point and forced to become the President.”
The revolting soldiers told him that if he refused, they would shoot him on the spot.
They had started the revolt to save themselves from Obote’s officers. But they then suddenly realized that they had to go all the way and take over the government from Obote himself, or else they would face a serious backlash, possibly the military court martial and the death sentence, if/when Obote returned from his trip abroad.
All they now needed was a capable, popular leader at the presidency.
Gen. Amin, as Army Commander, and the only senior officer they could trust, perfectly fitted the bill.
On 25th January, the day after the gunpoint incident, Staff Sergent Aswa, the leader of the mutineering soldiers, read an announcement on radio Uganda which ended saying:
“We the soldiers of the Uganda Armed Forces have taken over the government. We have also appointed as president our fellow soldier General Idi Amin Dada.”
The BBC reported cheering crowds in the streets of Kampala immediately after the radio broadcast.
“The people of Uganda are celebrating the demise of President Milton Obote’s government”, the report said.
In a 2012 article for the Telegraph newspaper (UK) Sir Peter Allen, Former Senior Judicial Officer who served in Uganda from 1955 to 1987, also wrote:
“In 1971, while President Obote was in Singapore attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference, a group of soldiers, led by Sergeant-Major Aswa, announced on the radio that they had overthrown the government. This was because they were dissatisfied with Obote who was making life miserable for them. They then asked Amin to take over as President.”
How Milton Obote was brought back again 8 years later after Amin, reveals the exotic ignorance, disorientation, and total disconnect that the so called “liberation forces” and their Tanzanian backers had with the Ugandan people.
And the monumental intellectual gymnastics to legitimize lies and their ideological confusion, continues to this day.
Locally, these are people who profess eloquently during public speeches, yet the mental backwardness in their real lives is quite fantastic.
But from 1966, there was no way Milton Obote could genuinely win any popularity or beauty contest in Uganda.
The peoples dissatisfaction had started back then when Obote overthrew the sitting President Edward Muteesa, abolished all Kingdoms and all traditional leaders across the country, unilaterally banned all political parties, jailed all political opponents, changed the constitution, and summarily appointed himself president.
He also started a nice sectarian government that sought to place only people from his tribe in all key government and army positions under a hillarious 50-year plan called “The Lango Master Plan” (see last link below).
However, in 1971, Amin was not part of any coup d’etat, nor did he ever appoint himself president.
Neither were the Israeli’s, or the British involved.
Gen. Amin was under duress and forced to lead the new military government just before the soldiers publicly announced the takeover on state radio.
The Israeli’s and the British came in to support and recognize the new government after it was declared to the public and the international community.
All the other narratives about how Amin came to power are simply a result of wonderful political hysteria and first class media delirium.
And for the record, one cannot claim to understand the true circumstances under which Amin governed Uganda unless one understands what exactly happened to him on 24th January 1971.
By Hussein Lumumba Amin