UGANDA: Amin:The Wild Man of Africa

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Some estimates placed the week's death toll as high as 3,000, including 2,000 officers and men from Amin's 21,000-man army and 700 from the national police. In one particularly vengeful operation, Amin's marines were said to have killed every civilian they could find in Akoroko, the native village of Milton Obote.

Amin claimed that he was responding to an attempted coup hatched by Obote, who lives in exile in Tanzania. A week earlier, as Amin tells the story, his suppression of the coup had led to the arrests of Archbishop Luwum and the former Cabinet ministers. Amin still insisted that the three men had died in a traffic accident while trying to escape arrest, but refugees told a far different story. They charged that the victims had been taken to an army barracks, where they were bullied, beaten and finally shot. Some reports even had it that Amin himself had pulled the trigger, but Amin angrily denied the charge, and there were, of course, no firsthand witnesses. Amin refused to allow the archbishop's family to view his body before soldiers buried the sealed coffin in his native village. Some Ugandans doubted that the coffin contained Luwum's remains; they suspected that Amin had destroyed the evidence of murder by burning the body or feeding it to the crocodiles.

Shabby Relic. At a press conference, Amin admitted only that six officers had been killed in a short-lived uprising that had been staged by dissident tribesmen of the army's Tiger battalion. After that, he claimed, one man had been killed and another wounded when tribesmen "burst into" the military police headquarters in the capital. The clear impression was that Amin was building pretexts for staffing both the government and his Soviet-equipped armed forces largely with members of his own small Moslem tribe, the Kakwa.

Can Amin seriously hope to contain Uganda's 7 million Christians indefinitely with 800,000 Moslems? At the moment, his policy appears to be one of selective genocide, and no one is in a position to check his ruthless misuse of power.

Indeed, Uganda is a shabby relic after six years of monumental misrule. The economy is a shambles. Nobody is starving, since there are plenty of bananas, the main staple for both food and (in distilled form) liquor. Corn, tapioca and yams also help ensure enough food for survival. But apart from the soil, not much of anything works today in Idi Amin's Uganda. Coffee and cotton were Uganda's chief export crops, but Asian and European marketing expertise has gone, and exports have declined drastically. At a time when coffee is at world-record high prices, 2 million bags of it are stockpiled in Kampala awaiting buyers. "They can still grow export crops," says a U.N. agronomist, "but uncertain delivery dates and past failure to live up to contracts have turned buyers off. They can't count on supplies any more, so they have counted Uganda out." The trouble is transport to market. Only 1 in 20 trucks registered in Uganda moves.

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