I just finished watching THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, a fictional tale set in Uganda during the reign of Idi Amin (1971 – 1979). I know little about Amin – I was born in 1970 – but I remember his name being featured in the TV news during my childhood.
When Amin died in 2003, in exile in Saudi Arabia (US ally) where he’d been since 1979, apparently never deported for crimes against humanity (it is said somewhere between 80,000 and 500,000 Ugandans died during his years in power), the major news outlets around the world said things like:
Amin, who almost single-handedly turned a nation’s prosperity into economic ruin and plunged a peaceful society into a nightmare of chaos and terror, was admitted to King Faisal Specialist Hospital on July 18. He had been in a coma and on life support since his admission. (The Age, borrowed from the LA Times.)
Amin’s eight years as president of Uganda were characterised by bizarre and murderous behaviour. (The Sydney Morning Herald)
The eight-year rule which followed was characterised by bizarre and brutal behaviour. (The BBC…. eerily almost word-for-word the SMH’s version)
Amin brought bloody tragedy and economic ruin to his country, during a selfish life that had no redeeming qualities. (The Guardian)
THEN… I found this fascinating article, The Making of Idi Amin, which was originally written in 1979 by Pat Hutton and Jonathan Bloch and was re-published on this site in 2001. The re-published version starts:
British government documents, recently declassified under the 30-year rule, have supported earlier accounts by the journalists Pat Hutton and Jonathan Bloch which said the rise of Idi Amin was engineered by outside interests to stop President Milton Obote’s nationalisation drive in which the state had taken 60% interest in all foreign and Ugandan-Asian-owned businesses.
The article goes on to describe the involvement of Britain, the USA and Israel in supporting Amin’s rise to power and his years at the helm. The story is that Amin’s predecessor, President Obote, was planning on nationalising British interests in Uganda – the thing Western imperialists hate the most – and that Amin – a former soldier in the colonial British army – was brought to power by British interests to reverse the nationalisation.
Was Idi Amin another in a long line of brutal dictators brought to power by Western governments who murdered thousands upon thousands of his own people? And the people in the West who brought him to power – like they also did with Saddam and Suharto and Somoza and Batista and Trujillo and Mobutu and Pinochet and Pahlavi – go untouched.