On April 11, marked 40 years since the overthrow of Idi Amin Dada, in a coup championed by a cocktail of soldiers from the Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces (TPDF), Uganda’s Kikosi Malum under Oyite Ojok and FRONASA under Yoweri Museveni.
Amin just like his predecessor Obote, had watched events as they unfolding and looked at his power slithering away, the only difference is that he tried to do something about it.
Starting April 6, when it became imminent that the self styled Field Marshal was headed for a fall, Amin started making panicky statements. Since he had been given a walkie talkie that would directly connect to Uganda Broadcasting Service Radio (UBC), he used every opportunity he had left to rally the already tired masses against the advancing opponent army.
When it was not possible to use the radio, Amin moved with a public address system and would stand through the car’s sunroof and assure citizens everything is okay. One of the specific events happened at Wandegeya Mosque.
On the very day, following a well selected music line up of soft themed songs like he fancied, Amin announced on Radio that he was going no where, claiming that the loud bomb explosions were cowardly enemy bombardments.
“I will not leave this country unless I am going somewhere else in Uganda,” Big Daddy made the announcement.
On April 8th, true to his word, Amin ordered Uganda’s best Israeli trained paratrooper Dusman Sabuni, to command a 2000 men army to offer a reply to surging Tanzania soldiers.
Meanwhile, he was making orders while at one of his posh residences in Munyonyo, a Kampala suburb. This residence he named ‘Cape Villa’ out of his intention to bomb Cape Town and “teach the apartheid government a lesson’.
Sabuni’s army was overrun in a very short time, offering very limited resistance, its commanders taking off only to be arrested later in Kenya. Amin was now left ‘naked’, he had to flee, but he was full of surprises- He stayed in the city.
Inside Amin’s escape plan
In 1977, Amin had started getting several scares to his life and word of a coup. Indeed, he had been attacked by a group of armed officers loyal to his Vice President Mustapha Adrisi, following a life threatening motor accident involving the latter.
Although Amin was evacuated aboard a government chopper, but then he was only lucky there was no one to aim for the skies.
Amin as precaution, rushed to develop quickest and safest means of transport out of the city should another opportunity present itself to his enemies.
Amin went to the extreme, ordering boat constructors to make a huge escape boat out of hard concrete and iron bars.
In 1978, it was towed towards the waters for its inauguration and to give Amin the first grand boat cruise. Alas, it stayed where it had been placed, and tipped over! Just like that, his first escape plan sunk with the concrete boat.
Now Amin was stuck in Kampala, his army disintegrated, his boat too ‘dead’ to rise, the chopper too risky to use. The now embattled Amin with the help of his remaining body guards got into his sport car and drove east, towards Jinja followed by a convoy of Mercedes Benzes.
However, before he left, Amin made another radio broadcast telling the soldiers to give honor to their guns and that he was still president.
“Mimi bado Rahisi ya Uganda. Usitupe bunduki yako. Kufa na bunduki yako” (“I am still the President of Uganda. Don’t throw away your gun, die with it)
When in Jinja, Amin addressed residents, including army officers and declared Jinja was the new capital of Uganda. “I will die here,” Amin said, urging soldiers to keep the fight while he mobilises more support to repulse the enemy.
Amin’s son Remo Amin, is quoted in a book- Uganda’s Presidents, citing that Amin had lambasted a heckling crowd in Jinja, stating that: “You want me to go but one day you will lament that maybe I was good for the country after all. You will then look for me but you will not find me. People will cry after me but they will not find me.”
It was not long until the Tanzania/UNLA troops started their march to Jinja through Kinoni as they prepared to smoke Amin out. The former President had asked that the army station a huge tanker at the Own Falls Dam which was overpowered and the commander of Gadaffi Barracks in Jinja flee, marking slight victory for the advancing forces.
On the same day, Amin was evacuated from Gadaffi barracks in a Mercedes led convoy, and a helicopter flying above it. Big Daddy was not yet done, he entered Soroti.
The announcement of Amin’s overthrow found him in Soroti. In the afternoon of the final overthrow of Amin, Oyite Ojok made a coordinated announcement from Tanzania stating that the sitting kampala government had been overthrown.
Later that evening, another coordinated announcement was made, giving Yusuf Lule power as the next President until elections are held.
However, 30 minutes later, Amin interrupted the signals from Soroti using an external frequency, giving Ugandans a music interlude and asking Ugandans to stay tuned for a special announcement.
Amin’s voice was heard announcing thus; “I, President Idi Amin Dada of the Republic of Uganda, I would like to denounce the announcement made by Lt. Col. Oyite-Ojok, the so-called chief-of-staff, that my government has been overthrown and they have formed their rebellion government in Uganda.”
Amin’s time had come, the Tanzania forces quickly marched towards Soroti, forcing him into another retreat to Arua and finally into a military jet sent by his friend Gadaffi of Libya.
Amin, together with his family and minister for finance, a one Abdul Hamid Kamulegeya flew out to Tripoli, a journey Kamulegeya says was a quiet one, as no one in the plane talked to the other until landing in Libya. Amin died of multiple organ failure in a hospital in Saudi Arabia on August 16, 2003.
The writer is a private contributor to Nile Post