Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Uganda celebrates the anniversary of two military coup-d’états separated by a span of exactly fifteen years today. The first coup, led by Idi Amin on January 25th 1971, deposed President Apolo Milton Obote. The second, on January 25th 1986, deposed Tito Lutwa Okello who had deposed the same Apolo Milton Obote barely six months earlier.

Obote, who had created the office of an executive president, was "dictatorial and barbaric”. The corruption he fostered led to widespread shortages and deprivation. When he was finally deposed in a relatively bloodless Coup by Idi Amin there was nationwide celebration.

Obote had been deposed while out of the country. There is some small evidence that other nations supported this efficient transition. Amin told Uganda and the world he was just a “caretaker” and that elections would take place as soon as possible.

Then, a week later, Amin changed his mind, and installed himself as president. Then things got bad.

Idi Amin attempted to solidify the Coup by exterminating “Obote supporters”. This started with high ranking officials, and descended into genocidal purging of Obote’s Lango tribe. The purging was extended to include the Acholi people who speak a mutually intelligible Luo language. Army barraks were stormed and Luo speaking soldiers were killed. In 1972 a failed invasion by exiles loyal to Obote failed, and kicked Amin’s brutality into a higher gear. By early 1972 over 15,000 Acholi and Lango soldiers and civilians had disappeared, and Amin was just getting started.

As the number of bodies grew so did the length of Amin’s official title. It eventually grew to:
"His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular".

He also officially claimed to be the uncrowned King of Scotland. Amnesty International claims 500,000 people lost their lives to Amin’s barbaric reign.

Amin was popular outside of Uganda. Some dignitaries thought his wild tittles were the sign of mental simplicity, and discounted his barbarism. Pakistani and Libyan leaders saw his rule as a potential toehold in central Africa, and supplied him with military hardware.

Buoyed by thousands of foreign troops armed with tanks and jets Amin invaded neighboring Tanzania in 1979. Amin’s troops were trained for brutalizing a population, not fighting a war, so when the Libyans on the front line were outflanked the Tanzanians marched right into Kampala. Amin fled to exile in Libya. Tito Lutwa Okello and his fellow exiled Ugandans took up the reins of government when the Tanzanians left. Unfortunately the people put in charge of setting up the election they called for rigged it so Obote won. So began Obote’s second term as president.

Obote’s second term was even more brutal than the first. The party he had “defeated” (the National Resistance Movement) in the rigged elections sought recompense and responded to their harsh treatment by forming the National Resistance Army (NRA). Obote attempted to cut off support for the NRA by moving three-quarters of a million people into concentration camps. Decisions on who to put in the camps or promote in the Ugandan army began to be decided on tribal affiliation. Tito Lutwa Okello’s group found themselves on the wrong side of the racial divide, so they staged another coup, not five years after ousting Amin, and ousted Obote for a second time.

By now civilization in Uganda had almost been completely dismantled. The army could barely fight, and the NRA quickly took over.

The chaos that was Uganda would continue to destabilize the region; sometimes spilling over into neighboring nations.

In 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Front would launch the invasion of Rwanda from Uganda which would eventually seed the Rwandan genocide.

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