by Hussein Lumumba Amin
Today’s young Africans and new Panafricanists have little knowledge of the key role that my father President Amin played in the 70’s.
As Western Empires were clinging on to the continent, Idi Amin took a highly celebrated stand against neo-colonialism and Western exploitation in Africa. He was named ‘Conqueror of the British Empire’ for kicking the British out of Uganda in 1972, after which he joined other African leaders in the Non-Aligned Movement, a coalition of newly independent countries that were neither communist nor under the Western block during the cold war.
Western powers’ were opposed to Uganda’s President Idi Amin and they persistently conducted a campaign to first defame, then topple the charismatic Ugandan leader. A plot that was mainly engineered by the British government’s secret service and the CIA.
They failed simply because “Amin was immensely popular within the Ugandan population and across Africa”.
It is Amin who had liberated Ugandans from a little-known Fascist leader called Milton Obote who was actually hated by Ugandans but hardly anyone beyond the country’s borders has ever heard of him.
In regards to the legacy of President Idi Amin, several accomplishments are remembered by Ugandans to this day:
- – His economic policies that empowered indeginous Ugandans and therefore initiated the true Ugandan economy (as opposed to the exploitative British imperial economy that existed until then)
- – Amin’s incorruptible leadership where he never enriched himself from state coffers, and was a man of the people who always took time to appear alone and mix with the ordinary masses in town or in upcountry villages and listened to their problems by hearing directly from the people.
- – President Amin embarked on major development projects in Uganda including transport (mainly Uganda railways and Uganda Airlines),
satellite telecommunications for global reception of international media and telephony, revamped banking sector with the countrywide expansion of Uganda Commercial Bank, expanded hotel & tourism industry, and modernization of agriculture through well equipped cooperative unions around the country.
- – It is only under Idi Amin that Uganda’s trade balance became positive, with the value of the countries exports largely exceeding it’s imports. A feat that is rare in Africa, didn’t happened even under colonialism and has never again happened ever since he left the country.
- – Uganda had no national debt under Amin. He paid for every thing the government purchased and Uganda lived within its means. The currency was stable (one US Dollar was equal to 7 Uganda Shillings. Today for example the Uganda currency has depreciated and one dollar is now equal to 3700 Uganda shillings).
- – He also ensured Africanization of the skills to sustain the economy by sending tens of thousands of Ugandans abroad for technical training and higher education so that indeginous Ugandans could handle all aspects of public administration, health, education, industry and business.
- – His government invested in new industries and self help projects under cooperative unions for rural communities across the country so as to provide jobs and incomes, plus uplift the standards of living in rural Uganda.
- – He personally promoted tourism and worked towards preservation of Uganda’s rich wildlife where he would invite foreign journalists for tours
to showcase the wildlife but the journalists would instead focus on their campaign to defame him.
- – Thanks to Amin’s express support for sporting activities from school level to the national teams, Ugandan sportsmen, particularly in boxing, football, and athletics, made it on the continental and international stage. Uganda’s first Olympic gold medal was won under Amin. The football team suddenly became a serious contender on the continent, finishing second on the African cup of nations 1976, and a finalist in 1978. In boxing, after the Cubans and the Americans, the Ugandan team became one of the most competitive. They were known as ‘The bombers’.
- – Women’s emancipation was a key element during the Amin government. He made sure they had access to businesses nationalized after the expulsion of the British and their Indian cronies, and he gave women positions in public administration. The first ever Ugandan woman government minister. The first ever Ugandan woman judge. The first ever Ugandan woman ambassador. The first ever Ugandan women directors and managers. All happened thanks to Amin.
For the first time women had their own finances, their own businesses, and their own jobs. In 2013 a gender reseacher Alicia C. Deckers wrote: “One of the most curious outcomes of Idi Amin’s military government, was the liberation and emancipation of Ugandan women. By expelling the Asian population in late 1972, Amin opened up a new economic space for women. Whether they engaged in trade or because they received a shop ‘abandoned’ by the departed Asians, numerous women fondly remembered Amin as the one who ‘taught us how to work’, and Ugandans in general remember Amin as “the person who opened our eyes to business”. For the first time, they gained access to financial resources and the related decision-making power.” Most of the successful industrial entrepreneurs in Uganda today started doing business in the 70’s thanks to Idi Amin’s affirmative action to support and build a truely indeginous-led economy. Before Amin, black Ugandan’s had been deliberately prevented by the British colonial regime from engaging in business. The colonialist had unilaterally decided that trade and industry was reserved for the Asians whom they imported en-mass, while indeginous Ugandans would be the workforce and hard labour.
It is this discrimination and exploitation that caused Amin to correct the situation by expelling the British and the Asians, nationalising their businesses, and redistributing them to Ugandans. Thus from the British Imperial economy that existed until 1972, it is Idi Amin who founded the true Ugandan economy that continues to this day.
The implementation of these groundbreaking policy initiatives are what has made the Ugandan people consider Idi Amin as the country’s most patriotic leader ever. And when the western countries alleged that the Ugandan economy collapsed under Amin, it is a statement that is therefore patently false.
DIVIDE AND RULE
They had tried to talk Kenya into a secret blockade of Ugandan imports and exports through the Kenyan port of Mombasa. This almost caused the two East African countries to go to war against each other. Kenyan leader Jomo Kenyatta was also talked into providing support for the Israeli raid against a fellow African country. A raid that was widely condemned at the African Union and the United Nations especially since Amin had managed to negotiate a deal between the Palestinians who wanted their people freed, and the Israeli’s who wanted their citizens back. While Amin remained an incorruptible Panafricanist, Kenyan leaders sold their souls to the colonial master and plotted against their African neighbour.
In fact the total collapse of the East African Community was an attempt to try and isolate Uganda. It was a British instigated affair where Kenya was asked to secretly hoard all the communities assets, including all the trains of East African Railways and all the planes of East African airlines, so as to try and cripple Amin’s Uganda which was part of the East African Community.
The Ugandan leader responded by establishing Uganda’s own airlines and Uganda’s own railway company, a feat that Ugandans are proud of to this day.
The true collapse of the economy and the state only happened once Amin left the country. This is the part that is kept secret.
All the development he made for the country was left to crumble by his successors. The Gross national Income per capita suddenly fell to a record low of $200 dollars per person per year between 1980 and 1990. Uganda spiraled downwards into extreme poverty where a citizen was earning half a dollar a day. Money that would have to cover housing, food, education, transport, utilities and medical bills. Needless to say they couldn’t afford any of it.
This is the life that Ugandans lived after Amin. They call it the bush war years. Basically what happened to Libya after Ghaddaffi is exactly what happened to Uganda after President Idi Amin. Total chaos and anarchy including at least two genocides, multiple rebel groups fighting each other on sectarian and ethnic grounds, extreme poverty, and untold crimes against humanity.
So the real question is why is the Western media mysteriously silent about all the Amin successes, especially about his soaring popularity across Africa in the 70’s?
It was a deliberate operation to discredit him.
British intelligence paid witnesses to claim that 500,000 Ugandans had been killed by Amin. The information was then smuggled into an Amnesty International report.
But nobody has spared a minute to ask where are the remains or evidence of the 500,000 people who they purport that he killed?
Where is the Amnesty International investigation that came with those numbers?
The answer to those two questions is simple: They are non existent.
British agents also came into Uganda at the time when Amin had just left the country, and they grabbed all video and audio recordings of news related to Amin from the national broadcaster archives. All the public events, the launch of projects, foreign trips, public speeches and the coverage of sports events, summits, meetings with various international dignitaries and anything that would portray him in good light. All were smuggled to the Kenyan border and shipped to Britain where they remain hidden to this day under secret service custody. They then funded an obvious defamatory movie entitled “The Rise & Fall of Idi Amin”. It was filmed in Kenya, and set the ground for most of the rumours about Idi Amin today.
They have done such a good job at the indoctrination of Africans that even the so-called Panafricanists of today get their information about Amin from the very colonialists who sought to tarnish his image.
Today’s Panafricanist s are completely unaware of how popular Idi Amin was around the African continent. Especially after he became the voice of African liberation struggles in 1975. He championed the fight against Apartheid and was applauded for proposing a common African military force to fight the fascist regime in South Africa, and then liberate the other African nations that were still under the chains of colonialism.
It is while Amin was Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and he proposed the creation of that African military contingent to fight colonialism that six African countries immediately gain their independence: Mozambique, Cape Verde, Comoros, Angola, Djibouti, and Sao Tome.
Under Amin, African liberation leaders like Zimbabwe’s Bishop Abel Muzorewa and Joshua Nkomo were always in Uganda. Others were Holden Roberto, Augustino Neto, Jonas Savimbi, and even Eduardo Dos Santos who just stepped down recently from Angola’s presidency.
The Liberation groups like ANC (then known by Ugandans as Azania National Congress), Frelimo, Swapo, Unita, MPLA, and even the ANC female warriors, were all trained and armed by the Uganda marines under President Idi Amin who financed and fully supported their activities.
He offered them training camps in Uganda. He also gave them Ugandan passports and facilitated their movements to lobby for support around the world.
When Idi Amin left Uganda after the war in 1979, the African Union was in uproar against Julius Nyerere and actually condemned the invasion of Uganda, especially after a cease-fire and a demilitarized border zone had been agreed by all parties. Nyerere suddenly became a pariah leader in the eyes of the Organization of African Union because of his 1979 war against Amin just when a peace agreement had been signed between Uganda and Tanzania.
But many African leaders, particularly in Southern African countries, have chosen to be silent about President Amin’s support and contribution to their liberation struggles, and their efforts to free their people. They all forgot his sacrifice for their cause. Only Nelson Mandela remembered to thank Amin after his release from jail.
What Britain doesn’t want the world to know, is that it is President Idi Amin who brought the plight of the Palestinian people to world attention. Before that, they were being killed and expelled from their houses without any western country lifting a finger to object to Israeli oppression. What President Idi Amin did in 1975 was to bring the support of the entire African continent behind the rights of the Palestinian people. The memorable speech that he made at the UN General Assembly on that occasion has been ranked by Time magazine as one of the Top ten greatest moments of the General assembly.
He was continuously applauded by the gathering of world heads of states as he presented the Palestinian cause and the suffering of black South Africans under Apartheid. He branded the CIA as a murder squad that was assassinating pre-designated African leaders, those who stood against western interference and exploitation. And he told the world that Africa’s last resort was to organise a common military force to liberate the countries that were still under colonialism oppression and Apartheid.
Before Amin brought the African continent to support the Palestinian cause, Arab countries were not being listened to, and Europeans were seemingly comfortable looking the other way as the AlNakba genocide/ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Israeli Jews went on. Had it not been for Amin and Africa’s intervention at the UN, their would not be a Palestinian state to talk of today.
And the global support that Palestinians now have as shown in the recent UN general assembly vote against America’s decision to unilaterally declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, is an indication that Amin and Africa were right to kickstart the defence of the defenceless people of Palestine on the world stage.
At the time Western countries conveniently wanted to see them as just terrorists.
It is President Idi Amin who put the Palestinians case properly on the world forum with Africa’s full support. Their plight was no different from the colonialism that Africa had endured. It was a game changing moment that stopped the secret ongoing extinction of Palestine by Israeli’s.
The world had to recognize that there was a people, ordinary Palestinian men, women, children and the elderly just like in any other country, who were being oppressed and were simply resisting that oppression because they too had the right to exist and live in peace and freedom in their homes and their land.
But what African youths today should know is that once upon a time, the most popular person on the African continent was President Idi Amin.
The media will not report that this was a man who never wanted to be president. They won’t tell you that he was actually put at gun point by mutineering soldiers on Monday 24th January 1971 and forced to take charge of the country or be shot.
The western media and intelligence services conducted a well coordinated media campaign against President Idi Amin because he stood in the way of their greed, abuse and exploitation on many fronts, and they have now managed to turn today’s young African youths against someone whom African parents and grand parents held in high esteem as a true African hero.
Africans supported him because of his pro-African views against plunder, oppression, and exploitation of indeginous Africans by western imperialism.
However not all Africans have been fooled by the western media’s alternative facts regardless of how widespread they are.
Upon his death in Saudi Arabia on 16th August 2003, Ambassadors and diplomats of African countries flocked his residence to mourn at his funeral. African students, African workers, and African pilgrims who were in the country to perform the Umra pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, attended the vigil as well. All hailed him for his stand against western powers and his defense of black people around the world. African Americans were present and they remembered him for his support to their civil rights movement as they struggled against the endemic racism and discrimination that persists in the United States of America to this day. President Idi Amin had supported black Americans and even met many black leaders including Louis Farrakhan and American boxing legend Muhammad Ali whom Amin admired immensely, especially because the Ugandan patriot had been a boxer himself in his youth days.
For a person whose parents were too poor to pay for his education, President Idi Amin was naturally brilliant and had to learn by himself
at every step of the way during his life and career. As the boxer that he once was, he had to rise up to every challenge that was thrown at him. But those who were close to him will tell you how light-hearted, friendly and sociable he really was.
Always ready to lend a helping hand even to people he didn’t know. When he encountered a road accident, he would forget his title of President and personally rush the injured to the nearest hospital. He is known to have helped to transport a tired pregnant women to her home. In the evenings he would drive alone to town and have a chat with excited citizens before jumping into his car and driving off. Ugandans remember him always saying “I am a soldier, not a politician.” He was a person who felt more comfortable amidst the ordinary folk. He came from a background where he could connect with the peoples humble lives of his citizens. But he was also a person who was determined to see Africa succeed by its own hands and sweat.
One thing we should remember is that in the decade before Captain Thomas Sankara and Nelson Mandela, the African hero was President Idi Amin.