Skip to main content
CNN EditionWorld
The Web     
Powered by
powered by Yahoo!

Idi Amin: 'Butcher of Uganda'

Amin was one of Africa's most notorious dictators.
Amin was one of Africa's most notorious dictators.

Story Tools

 Born in Koboko, West Nile Province, Uganda, 1925
 Raised by his single mother
 President of Uganda, 1971-79
 Took office in 1971 military coup
 Ousted in 1979 military coup

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- A former heavyweight boxer who had been a British colonial army sergeant, Idi Amin exuded power during his years in Uganda.

He served in the British colonial King's African Rifles and saw action in World War II in Burma.

After joining the Ugandan army in 1962 when the colony gained independence from Britain, he quickly rose up the ranks to commander of the armed forces in 1966.

In a military coup in 1971, Amin ousted Ugandan leader Milton Obote and seized power.

He declared himself president and began a reign seen as one of the bloodiest in African history -- earning Amin the nickname "Butcher of Uganda." The 250-pound dictator preferred to call himself Dada, or "Big Daddy."

In 1972, Amin plunged his East African nation into economic chaos by expelling tens of thousands of Asians who had controlled the country's economy.

And during his eight-year rule, Ugandans were gripped in a climate of fear as an estimated 500,000 people disappeared or were killed.

Amin garnered a fearsome reputation as a sadistic leader surrounded by death; he was even reported to be a cannibal.

Bodies were dumped into the River Nile because there were insufficient graves. At one point, so many bodies were fed to crocodiles that remains sometimes blocked intake ducts at the country's hydroelectric plant at Jinja, AP said.

"Even Amin does not know how many people he has ordered to be executed ... The country is littered with bodies," said Henry Kyemba, Amin's longtime friend and a former health minister, when he defected to Britain in 1977.

He praised Hitler and said the German dictator "was right to burn six million Jews." He bizarrely offered to be king of Scotland if asked.

Amin challenged his neighbor and frequent critic, Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, to a boxing match, according to The Associated Press, and wished Richard Nixon "a speedy recovery" from Watergate.

His political downfall came in 1979, when Tanzanian troops and Ugandan dissidents stormed his palace in Kampala, overthrowing the government.

Amin went into exile in Saudi Arabia, where his friendship with King Faisal helped ease the way for a quiet retirement.

His family asked Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to allow Amin to return home, David Kibirige of Ugandan newspaper The Monitor told CNN.

However, the Ugandan government said Amin would still face arrest and have to answer for his crimes.

A member of the Amin family said he was to be buried Saturday afternoon in Saudi Arabia, Ugandan journalist Odoobo Bichachi told CNN.

Shortly after his health failed, Uganda's government rebuffed his family's request to allow him to be buried in his homeland, according to his relatives. A family burial site had been reserved for him in his former hometown of Arua.

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Iran poll to go to run-off
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards

International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.