THE RISE AND FALL OF EVIL TYRANT IDI AMIN DADA…ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST EVIL MEN

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IDI  AMIN DADA- EVIL WARLORD

Idi  Amin Dada was the third President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Amin joined the British colonial regiment, the King’s African Rifles in 1946, serving in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda.

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Uganda: How the West brought Idi Amin to power   That Idi Amin was a brutal dictator of extraordinary cruelty is well known and becomes more so as the tally of his victims, according to conventional accounts, topped over 100,000 between 1971-75. What is less known is the role of the British government and its allies not only in maintaining Amin’s machinery of repression but in actually establishing him in power. Although Amin later became alienated from his Western friends, we can show here that the break between him and Britain became complete only when his fall (on April 10, 1979) was imminent, and that regarding him as the least evil option from the point of view of British interests, London actively helped keep him in power. The tale of how the Western powers took measures to reverse the decline of their fortunes in Africa during the 1960s is complex in detail but simple in principle. In Uganda, once dubbed the Pearl of Africa by Winston Churchill, huge British financial, industrial and agricultural interests were under threat from the Obote government. Unease about Obote’s intentions was combined with attempts by outside interests to ingratiate themselves. Obote accepted aid from the Israel government, which was desperately trying to avoid total diplomatic isolation while being used as a proxy by the United States in countries where its own reputation was tarnished. The Americans and Israelis worked in very close co-operation in Uganda, particularly through their respective intelligence agencies, the CIA and Mossad. Washington provided some development aid while Israeli troops trained the Ugandan army and airforce. The British economic and political presence was always predominant and this was one of the situations that Obote hoped to change. Throughout the late 1960s, Obote was consolidating his personal power and introducing legislation that was to shake the colonial interests. Although Obote was no Fidel Castro or Julius Nyerere [president ofTanzania], his Common Man’s Charterand the nationalisation of 80 British companies were not welcome in London. As one prominent commentator put it: The Obote government was on the point of changing not only the constitution but the whole political system when [Amin’s] coup occurred. A vital source of raw materials, Uganda was not about to be permitted to determine its own political development at the expense of the entrenched interests. Soon, plans were being laid by Britain in combination with Israel and America to remedy this situation. The grand plan The first task was to choose Obote’s possible successor, and Idi Amin proved an obvious choice. Known by the British as a little short on the grey matter thoughintensely loyal to Britain, his qualifications were superb. He had started his career as a non-commissioned officer in the British colonial regiment, the King’s African Rifles, and later served in the British suppression of Kenyan nationalists in the late 1950s (mistakenly known as the Mau Mau rebellion). In Uganda itself, Amin had helped form the General Service Units (the political police) and had even chosen the presidential bodyguard. Some have said Amin was being groomed for power as early as 1966 (four years after Ugandan independence on October 9, 1962), but the plotting by the British and others began in earnest in 1969 when Obote started his nationalisation program. The plotting was based in southern Sudan, in the midst of a tribe that counted Amin among its members. Here, the Israel government had been supporting a secessionist movement called the Anya-Nya against the Arab-leaning Sudanese government, in an effort to divert Arab military forces from Israel’s western front with Egypt during the no peace, no war period of the Arab-Israeli conflict… The Amin coup Just a few days before the coup, 700 British troops arrived in neighbouring Kenya. Although they were apparently scheduled to arrive long before, The Sunday Expressspeculated that they would be used to put down anti-British riots following the decision of the British Conservative government to sell weapons to apartheid South Africa, remarking that the presence of the troops, seemingly co-incidental—could prove providential. The paper added that the British troops would be used if trouble for Britons and British interests starts. The report was followed two days later, still before the coup, by strenuous denials. When the coup took place, Obote was attending the Commonwealth conference in Singapore. He was aware that the internal situation in Uganda was not to his advantage and went to the conference only because President Nyerere of Tanzania had impressed on him the importance of being there to help present effective opposition to the British government’s arms sales to apartheid South Africa. The African members of the Commonwealth were piling the pressure on the British government. At a meeting with Zambia’s Presidents Kaunda, Nyerere and Obote, British Prime Minister Edward Heath was threatened with the withdrawal of those countries from the Commonwealth should the South African arms decision go through. During this tempestuous meeting, Heath is reported to say: I wonder how many of you will be allowed to return to your own countries from this conference. When Amin finally struck, the British press claimed that a Ugandan sergeant-major operating a telephone exchange had overheard a conversation concerning plans by Obote supporters in the army to move against Amin. Upon hearing the news, Amin moved into action, quickly seizing all strategic points in Uganda. Apart from the fact that the army would not have attempted to remove Amin in the absence of Obote, this version ignores the British and Israeli plans. On Amin’s accession to power, all was sweetness and light between him and the British establishment. Britain very quickly recognised Amin’s regime, exactly one week after the coup. And he was hailed as a conquering hero in the British press. But even the US government considered the British recognition of Amin as showing unseemly haste. In London, The Times commented: The replacement of Dr Obote by General Amin was received with ill-concealed relief in Whitehall. Other British press comments included, Good luck to General Amin (the Daily Telegraph); Military men are trained to act. Not for them the posturing of the Obotes and Kaundas who prefer the glory of the international platform rather than the dull but necessary tasks of running a smooth administration (the Daily Express); and more in the same vein. Not surprisingly, Amin supported Edward Heath’s stand on selling arms to apartheid South Africa, breaking the unified opposition of the states at the Singapore Commonwealth conference. Amin also denationalised several of the British companies taken over under Obote, and in July 1971 came to London where he had lunch with the queen and meetings with Heath’s cabinet. But the seeds of discord between Britain and Amin were being sown as he began to fail to live up to their expectations of servility. After the coup, Uganda was granted 10 million pounds in economic aid (to be administered by Britain), in addition to 15 Ferret and 36 Saladin armoured cars, other military equipment and a training team for the Ugandan army. However, Amin resented the fact that Britain would not give him fighter aircraft and other sophisticated equipment to help his expansionist ambitions. In particular, Amin had plans for an invasion of Tanzania, so that he could have a port on the east coast of his own. For help in this project, which was becoming an obsession, Amin then turned to Israel. He asked for Phantom jet fighters and other sophisticated weapons, permission for which would have been required from the US government. Saying that the request went beyond the requirements of legitimate self-defence, Israel refused Amin, which probably was a factor in the expulsion of the Israelis from Uganda in April 1972. Although short of the hardware necessary, Amin was well supplied with strategic advice. This came from another collaborator with British intelligence, a British major who lived on the Kagera River, on the border with Tanzania, where Amin used to come to visit him frequently by helicopter. This former officer in the Seaforth Highlanders had been a member of the International Commission of Observers sent to the Nigeria civil war to investigate charges of genocide, but he was sacked amid allegations that he had offered his services to the Nigerian federal government as a mercenary. But at a National Insurance Tribunal in England, where he was protesting his dismissal and claiming compensation, the major explained that his real role in Nigeria was to collect intelligence for the British government and offer strategic military advice to the Nigerian federal forces. In spite of strenuous denials from the Foreign Office, the tribunal accepted the major’s story and described him as a frank and honest witness. It is not known whether the major’s activities on behalf of Amin were officially sanctioned by the British government, or parts of it, but his role seems to have been similar to the part he played in Nigeria. At any rate, the major took Amin’s invasion plan of Tanzania seriously, undertaking spying missions to Tanzania to reconnoitre the defences and terrain in secret. He supplied Amin with a strategic and logistical plan to the best of his abilities, and although lack of hardware was an obstacle, evidence that Amin never gave up the idea came in the fact that the invasion of Uganda by Tanzanian and exiled Ugandan anti-Amin forces in late 1978 which eventually brought his rule to an end on April 10, 1979, was immediately preceded by an abortive invasion of Tanzania by Amin’s army. In the manner which characterised the major’s behaviour after the Nigerian episode, he did not maintain discretion when back in England. He wanted to publish his story of cooperation with Amin in the Daily Express, but this was scotched by an interesting move by the British government — a D-Notice banning the story on grounds of national security. US support Beginning with his purges of the army, later extending them to those who had carried out the purges, the ferocity and cruelty of Amin’s rule increased steadily—most of it performed by the dreaded Public Safety Unit, the State Research Centre and various other bodies. These received training assistance and supplies from Britain and the US. In July 1978, the US columnist Jack Anderson revealed that 10 of Amin’s henchmen from the Public Safety Unit were trained at the International Police Academy in the exclusive Washington suburb of Georgetown. The CIA-run academy was responsible for training police officers from all over the world until its closure in 1975. Three of the Ugandans continued their studies at a graduate school, also run by the CIA, called the International Police Services Inc. Shortly after the Amin coup, the CIA had one full-time police instructor stationed in Uganda. Controversy raged in the United States in the use of equipment sold to Uganda. Twelve of these were police helicopter pilots for American Bell helicopters that had been delivered in 1973. Security equipment of various types also found its way to Uganda from Britain, and most came as a result of the groundwork done by another collaborator of British intelligence, Bruce Mackenzie, an ex-RAF pilot and long-serving adviser to President Kenyatta of Kenya. Mackenzie also doubled as the East African agent for a giant British electronics firm, based in London, dealing in telecommunications. Trade in radio transmitters and other devices continued right up to Amin’s fall from power. Though Mackenzie had died when a bomb planted by Amin’s police exploded in his private plane, the trade with the electronics firm continued nonetheless. Several times a week, Ugandan Airlines’ planes would touch down at Stansted Airport in Essex, England, to unload quantities of tea and coffee and take on board all the necessary supplies for Amin’s survival. In spite of all the revelations of the nature of Amin’s dictatorship and his dependency on the Stansted shuttle, it continued right up to February 1979, when the British government ended it in an extraordinary piece of opportunism. The chief advantage of the shuttle to Amin was that it obviated the need for foreign exchange, for which Uganda had virtually none. In June 1977, the Sunday Times revealed that the Ugandan planes to Stansted were picking up Land Rovers (28 were delivered), one of them specially converted and bristling with sophisticated electronic equipment for monitoring broadcasts, jamming and other capabilities. The cargo spotlighted by the Sunday Times also included a mobile radio studio, which is almost certainly where Amin was continuing to assert over the airwaves that he was in control long after he had been ousted from Kampala. At the same time, an extensive relationship between Uganda and the Crown Agents, the trading agency with strong links in Britain’s former colonies, was exposed. Crown Agents had arranged a deal for Amin to buy 120 three-ton trucks made in Luton. The trucks were thought to have been converted for military purposes before being shipped out. The British firm that supplied the electronic equipment and another firm in the same field had also supplied Amin’s State Research Centre with telephone-tapping equipment, night-vision devices, burglar alarms and anti-bomb blankets. When the Liberal MP David Steel questioned Labour Party Prime Minister Jim Callaghan about this, all that the prime minister had to say was that the devices wereintended to track down television licence dodgers. To add to this, it was said that after the Entebbe raid by Israeli troops, the radar damaged there was sent to England for repair. The principal value of the Stansted shuttle was to maintain Amin’s system of privileges, vital for retaining the allegiance of the Ugandan army. His power elite, consisting of army officers not subject to the stringent rationing imposed on the rest of the population, depended on the goods brought in on the Stansted shuttle. During times of the frequent and widespread shortages of basic commodities linked to inflation of around 150%, the officers could use the British goods to make their fortunes on the black market. A further aspect of the Stansted shuttle involved British, US and Israeli intelligence: this was in the provision of the planes. According to the Washington Post’s Bernard Nossiter, Pan Am was instructed by the CIA to sell several Boeing 707s to a New York-based Israeli company with former US defence department connections. The company was owned by an Israeli multimillionaire with a vast commercial empire. The company sold one of the Boeings to a small firm based in Switzerland, which passed the plane on to Amin in May 1976. The function of the Swiss-based company was to act as a laundry for the financing of projects backed by Israeli intelligence. In 1977, the Israeli company which had originally bought the plane from Pan Am, wanted to sell another Boeing to Uganda Airlines, but with the notoriety of Amin’s regime getting worse, the company feared losing the US State Department approval it had won for the first deal. The plane was thus sold to another company housed in the same building in New York as the Israeli company, which then leased the plane to Uganda Airlines. The two companies had close ties, and the purpose of this extraordinary generosity was to spy on the Libyan military airfield in Benghazi, where the planes always refuelled before going on to Stansted. Both Israeli and US intelligence provided navigators for the planes to spy on the airfield and make reports which were shared out among Israeli, US and British intelligence agencies. The information was probably of very little use, since the Libyans almost certainly knew of the presence of the navigators on the planes. But Amin was getting a very cheap service for the coffee and tea bound for London and the other goods that returned. Washington also provided pilots for the planes. A California-based company supplied the pilots acting as a subcontractor. Britain, a friend to the last In general, the British government’s attitude to Amin’s regime was neatly summed up by The Times when Amin had just expelled Uganda’s Asians on August 9, 1972: The irony is that if President Amin were to disappear, worse might ensueThe Timessaid. In a similar comment, exemplifying the relationship with Amin as being the devil you know, The Economist stated: The last government to want to be rid of Amin is the British one. This attitude persisted even beyond the break in Ugandan-British diplomatic relations in July 1976, as shown by the fact that the Stansted shuttle continued. Important political commentators in the British press believed that London would not impose sanctions on Uganda under Amin, since this might set a precedent for sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Britain plainly considered the bad image consequent on maintaining links with Amin not as serious as the consequences of breaking links with South Africa. Nonetheless, as the body count of Amin’s victims—former friends, members of the clergy, soldiers and mostly ordinary people—mounted daily, stock should have been taken of those who helped Amin stay where he was and turned a blind eye to the amply documented brutality of his regime. Thirty years on, no such stock has been taken and Amin continues to be cast as thedemented dictator who had no friends

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