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1971

Idi Amin takes power in Uganda

One week after toppling the regime of Ugandan leader Milton Obote, Major General Idi Amin declares himself president of Uganda and chief of the armed forces. Amin, head of the Ugandan army and air force since 1966, seized power while Obote was out of the country.

Ruling directly, Amin soon revealed himself as an extreme nationalist and tyrant. In 1972, he launched a genocidal program to purge Uganda of its Lango and Acholi ethnic groups. Later that year, he ordered all Asians to leave the country, and some 60,000 Indians and Pakistanis fled, thrusting Uganda into economic collapse. A Muslim, he reversed Uganda’s friendly relations with Israel and sought closer ties with Libya and the Palestinians. In 1976, he made himself president for life and stepped up his suppression of various ethnic groups and political opponents in the military and elsewhere.

In 1978, Amin invaded Tanzania in an attempt to annex the Kagera region and divert attention from Uganda’s internal problems. In 1979, Tanzania launched a successful counteroffensive with the assistance of the Uganda National Liberation Front, a coalition of various armed Ugandan exiles. Amin and his government fled the country, and Obote returned from exile to reassume the Ugandan presidency. Amin received asylum from Saudi Arabia. He is believed to have been responsible for the murder of as many as 300,000 Ugandans, though he never stood trial for his crimes.

Amin died on August 16, 2003, in Saudi Arabia.

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