When Amin seized power in 1971, he was a darling of the British, having served in the colonial army and being better than socialist Milton Obote.
The conservative government of Edward Heath, then Prime Minister for Britain, was the first to welcome Amin as a relief from Obote, a leftist and critic of Britain. Amin took a picture with Heath and placed it prominently at his home.
The Queen Elizabeth also time and again expressed her ‘love’ for Amin referring to him as a ‘very good friend’, even in letters she wrote to the Ugandan leader.
However, several months later, Amin’s romance with Britain ended when the former expelled Asians from Uganda, many of whom ended up in Britain. He would soon add to his many titles another; CBE (Conqueror of the British Empire), hence being, Field Marshal, Alhaji Dr. Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, CBE.
Matters accelerated from worse to worst after Isreali commando’s humiliated Amin at Entebbe Airport, when they rescued hostages in minutes (July 5 1976).
“Amin was humiliated, he got to know that the hostages had already been rescued. He sent army tankers to the airport from Bombo all day, but it was too late,” a retired officer claims.
With lump in throat, Amin blamed Britain for his humiliation and accused them of subversive activities in Uganda. To prove his case, he instructed his officers to abduct and kill Bloch, a 74-year-old who held dual British-Israeli citizenship, before expelling several British officials.
Amin sends Memo to Britain
Amin had sent Memo earlier discouraging France from hosting the British embassy. “I have received concrete evidence from security forces that British nationals are using facilities given by the French embassy for subversive activities in Uganda,” Amin said before expelling Britain.
The already fractious environment became increasingly perilous when Britain formally announced the break in relations on Wednesday 28 July 1976.
After their exit, Britain would ask that France represent their interests under French embassy in Kampala which added the British Interest Section over seen by ambassador Pierre-Henri Renard of France along side Robert Wyper, of Britain.
As per the conventional rules, Uganda had to consent to the British exit in 72 hours but Amin remained tight lipped, instead he sent two army tankers facing the window of the French embassy ready to shoot. Accordingly, he wanted to provoke Britain that still had two of their officials at the embassy.
Robert Wyper in an interview said at this time they would be sleeping on the floor of the embassy. And sooner Amin called Renard asking him to deliver the “spy” (Wyper) to State House.
Amin plays ‘movie’ with Wyper
When in Entebbe, Amin lined up men in black suits and shades, who kept staring at Wyper across the room. Amin himself was absent during the time, only sauntering in almost an hour late.
When Amin walked into the room, he did not sit; “He walked around us in circle not saying a word.”
Confused and disturbed at the same time, Renard who had traveled with Wyper tried to speak several times but whenever he attempted to mumble a few words, Amin would shout back: “shut up” then he continues walking around, arms folded behind him.
When he was done walking, Amin stopped in the middle, raised his index directly at Wyper, his voice more projected; “You are the most dangerous man in Uganda, a serious spy,” he accused.
Amin then walked halfway room to where the men in suits were, and again turned to Wyper and told him: “This is my death squad, they will be watching you all the time.”
When interviewed at a letter stage by foreign media, Wyper said he was frightened but he surely knew Amin had simply picked around a few of his workers at State House and dressed them in suits.
“I knew they weren’t; I’d seen the leaders of his secret police. The guys in suits and shades were probably his gardeners, but there was something of the bipolar to him. He was confident but at the same time fearful, yet also fearless. When he said A, he meant B, and for people accustomed to doing things by the diplomatic book, he was a handful. Amin enjoyed putting the cat among the pigeons. He was a showman, but he was no fool. He had no formal education but he could hold his own.”
Meanwhile Britain tried to reach Amin severally through mediation with Renard, but the CBE was hammered in, he refused to listen, or at least he enjoyed his game with them.
The writer is a private contributor to Nile Post