A PATTERN OF TYRANNY
Uganda in Pieces
Uganda, from its first moment of independence, has been a very unstable and violent country. The many different tribes, dialects, and traditions clash with the need to have a strong central government and a strong sense of nationalism. General Amin, like many Ugandans, was a man who sought gain for himself and cared very little about how he got it and who he stepped on along the way. From the day he joined the army in 1946, Idi Amin very quickly rose in rank and made important financial and charismatic connections along the way. Amin was an officer in 1962, and in 1967, he became the Army Commander, but not without many shaky situations along the way. In 1962, several months before the independence of the country, Amin lead a raid on a Turkana village to disarm them, but was not asked to take any further action against them. Several months later, some shallow graves were found near the town and the victims showed signs of being beaten and tortured before being shot. Amin was considered guilty, but he was also one in a very small number of officers, and word of his being court marshaled would spread quickly. On the eve of independence, the Ugandan government did not want a single spot to show on their soon to be installed government. This was the first time that Amin was not caught, but he would not always be so lucky.
After independence, a weak alliance was set up between
Baganda and the central government of the new Uganda. Baganda was a province
within Uganda which historically always had its own king and separate government.
In an act to begin the process of uniting Uganda, King Mutesa II became
the first president of Uganda, and Milton Obote, the prime minister. Milton
Obote was from the beginning a charismatic and powerful man, unlike Mutesa
II. By 1964, Obote's party, the Uganda People's Congress (UPC), had achieved
an absolute parliament majority, and the alliance began to collapse as Mutesa
II saw his power rapidly decreasing. Then began a series of events that
allowed Amin to bulldoze his way into power.
As Baganda began to increase
the size of its army, it became obvious that Mutesa II had plans to oust
Obote. Seeing his time running out, Obote suspended the constitution on
February 1966, and became the president on April 15 of that year. Then Amin's
role began to appear as he and the army backed Obote, and then Amin's troops
stormed the Kabaka's (king's) Palace, forcing him to flee. Baganda still
remained determined to remove Obote, and the next clash was to prove to
be an important lesson for Amin all the way until the coup.
A Bagandan parliament member produced some
records of Amin's bank account, and accused him of embezzling. This lead
to a snowball effect, and soon President Obote and several government officials
connected with Obote were accused of embezzling also. Then Obote, to show
his power over Baganda, dismissed the claims as unconstitutional, and promoted
Amin to Army Chief of Staff, while promoting Brigadier Opolot, who had previously
held that position and was also linked to Baganda, sideways to Chief of
the Defense Force. This pattern of sideways promotion and eventual removal
was a favorite of Obote. Amin remembered this situation when he, in 1970,
at the pinnacle of his military power, was also promoted sideways. This
trend was one of the things that motivated Amin to seize the government
before Obote pushed him aside.
During Obote's roller coaster ride, Amin was making powerful connections on the sidelines. Two key events would lead to Amin's overthrow of the government, and both events were related to these connections within the army and with other countries. Obote's relationship with the army became more and more unstable due to his constant reshuffling of positions to keep any one person from gaining power. When an assassination attempt was made on Obote, it was guessed that the assassins came from within the army. When later information proved that Amin had been missing for several hours during the assassination attempt, he was accused of treason; the ringleader of the case brought against Amin was Brigadier Okoya [right]. Amin kept remarkably cool during the accusations, but after a few days of trail, the Brigadier and his wife were found murdered in their homes. Fingers were pointed at Amin, but Obote was too busy trying to calm the unpaid army and police force to pursue Amin's arrest. The final straw was when Amin was accused of backing Sudanese Anayan guerrillas with state money. The Anayan guerrillas were rebels fighting against the government of Sudan, and this was important because at the time Sudan was one of Obote's allies. Although this may not have been Amin's motive for aiding the guerrillas, it caught Obote's attention, and so he set up the date for the trial of Amin. Obote was scheduled to meet with several other African leaders in Singapore that month to discuss the eventual independence of several African colonies; the trial would take place on his return. Amin saw his last chance right before his eyes. The evidence that was to be brought against him was strong enough to convict him, and so, while Obote was gone, Amin riled up the already uneasy army and captured Kampala, the capital, on January 25, 1971, in Uganda's first coup d etat. That day, Radio Uganda played martial music throughout the morning, and at 3:45 pm East African time, one of Amin's officer began a speech in labored English stating, in eighteen points, why the army had taken over. Amin was not mentioned until thirty minutes later, when it was announced that he had been asked by the army to take control of the country.
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