1971 Idi Amin Seizes Power in Uganda


Idi Amin

In January, while the Ugandan President Milton Obote was out of the country, Colonel Idi Amin staged a coup to oust the President. Amin soon began a reign of terror under which hundreds of thousands of Ugandans were killed..

Milton Obote had been Uganda's leader since the country gained independence in 1962. By the end of the 1960s, however, Obote's regime had grown increasingly autocratic. Political infighting, accusations of corruption, and disagreements within the military over Obote's leadership began to destabilize the nation.

Before the coup, Idi Amin had steadily risen through the ranks of the Ugandan military. With the support of President Obote, Amin played a crucial role in suppressing the Buganda Kingdom, one of Uganda's traditional monarchies. As a result of his loyalty and effectiveness, Amin was promoted to the position of army commander.

Despite their earlier collaboration, tensions began to emerge between Obote and Amin. Amin's increasing power within the military and his growing political ambitions made him a potential threat to Obote. Moreover, there were accusations that Amin was involved in various illicit activities, including smuggling.

In 1969, there was an assassination attempt on Obote. While Amin was not directly implicated, the subsequent restructuring of the military by Obote indicated his growing mistrust of Amin. This realignment threatened Amin's position and power within the army.

The actual coup took place in January 1971 when Obote was attending a Commonwealth conference in Singapore. Taking advantage of Obote's absence, Amin, with the backing of loyal military units, staged a swift and relatively bloodless coup.

On January 25, military units loyal to Amin seized strategic locations in the capital city of Kampala, including the radio station, the airport, and police stations. By the time Obote received news of the coup, Amin's forces had already consolidated control over key parts of the country.

The coup was initially popular among sections of the Ugandan population and military, as there was considerable disillusionment with Obote's regime. Amin's promises of restoring power to traditional kingdoms, addressing economic issues, and curbing the perceived excesses of Obote's rule garnered him some initial support.

In the end, Amin's successful seizure of power was a result of his strategic position within the military, his ability to command loyalty from significant sections of the armed forces, and the timely execution of the coup during Obote's absence. However, as his subsequent rule demonstrated, Amin's leadership brought about a dark chapter in Uganda's history.