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1971: A dictator comes to power

General Idi Amin's years as president of Uganda are considered one of the most brutal periods in the country's history.

The former Ugandan heavyweight boxing champion and head of the country's armed forces overthrew his predecessor, Milton Obote, in a military coup on 25 January 1971.

The general did not tolerate opposition - up to 400,000 people were murdered and thousands of Ugandan Asians expelled during his eight-year dictatorship.

General Amin fled the country in 1979 when he was toppled by rebels. He died in August 2003.

Your memories

My father was arrested by Amin's police on a plane at Entebbe airport and physically thrown off the plane on the runway.

This happened in front of my mum and us children and we were all crying thinking he would be killed.

He was taken to police barracks and beaten up.

By pure luck he was "unofficially" released by a policeman who recognised him because his children and us children used to play together at a local swimming pool.

A few days later we drove out of the country to Kenya in a convoy of English families with my Dad pretending to be a chauffer.

We ran a gaunlet of drunken soldiers waving guns who were shooting people for no reason.

We never lived in Uganda again.
Jenny Arac, UK

My family was in Kenya at the time Idi Amin took control of Uganda.

The impact of his action were felt in Kenya and Tanzania as many Indians felt that their days were numbered in East Africa. My parents decided it was time to move out of Kenya.

I had many relations in Uganda who were foced to leave and my uncle in his 1990s had to leave to go to India with my aunt who was bed-ridden.

It was a very sad time for a lot of people that I knew as they had to leave their possiessions and come to England or India or Canada with one suitcase.
Ansuya Sodha, London

I recall the date vividly. I was an 18 year old A-level student at old Kampala secondary school.

The Radio Uganda announcement of the coup was read by Warrant Officer II, Sam Wilfred Aswa, followed by Major General Idi Amin himself, who gave his reasons for the coup, in halting English.

Amin's statement was followed by one from the inspector general of police, Erinayo Wilson Oryema, who informed us that he had "sincerely agreed before the major general, that the military had taken over the government"!

In the meantime, the slaughter of Acholi and Langi officers and men had started on a large scale in the army barracks. For the rest of uganda, the nightmare was only beginning!
Simon Mugerwa, USA

As a 12-year-old boy I remember the day very vividly.

The sounds of guns shooting in the air, normal programming on radio Uganda was all of a sudden cut off and all you could hear was military band music.

After a few hours an army officer came on the air, did not give his name or anything. He just said in a thick north-west Ugandan accent: "The government of Uganda has been taken over....I repeat the government of Uganda has been taken over and any interfering force will be crushed."

I thought to myself something big must be going on so I ran from my house to the main road to see what was goin on.

There were military transports carying troops at high speed down the road. Some of them would stop and officers would jump out and start beating anyone who had a shirt or dress with a picture of the Milton Obote on it.

It seems like it was yesterday.

I left Uganda during the war that got him kicked out of the country.

It's a sad legacy because the country has never been the same since even with the improvements in the economy and government.
Alan Kisaka, USA


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