UGANDA: Amin:The Wild Man of Africa

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In the months that followed, Amin's behavior grew more and more erratic and menacing. He praised Adolf Hitler and promised to build a memorial to the Nazi leader in Kampala. He arrived at a party in a sedan chair carried by four local British businessmen who, explained Amin genially, were thus demonstrating "the new white man's burden." He wrongfully accused his former Foreign Minister, the beautiful Princess Elisabeth Bagaya, of sexual indiscretions. After the dramatic Israeli raid on Entebbe airport last July, an angry Amin ordered the summary execution of several air-traffic controllers, policemen and other airport officials on duty at the time. Over the past six years, according to Amnesty International, Amin has been directly or indirectly responsible for the murder of as many as 300,000 Ugandans.

In the beginning, the Israelis were among his closest allies, but by early 1973 they had grave reservations about his stability. Israel's former Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, recalls a dinner meeting with Amin at the home of former Defense Minister Moshe Dayan in Tel Aviv:

Amin: I would like 24 Phantom airplanes.

Dayan: Why?

Amin: I need them to bomb Tanzania.

Dayan (in Hebrew to Eban): This guy is crazy. Get him out of here.

Eban (in Hebrew to Dayan): I agree, but let's be polite.

Dayan: We would need U.S. clearance to give you Phantoms.

Amin: You are causing me trouble.

Dayan (in Hebrew to Eban): This conversation is not for me.

A fortnight later, recalls Eban, he ran into a British official who told him that Amin had been seeking Harrier jets from London for the same purpose. "What did you do?" wondered Eban. "I asked him," said the Briton, "if he wanted another cup of tea."

But tea is no antidote to soothe the consuming obsessions of Idi Amin. Some of his opponents, much to their regret, have tried other possibilities. Amin himself has proudly documented at least nine separate attempts on his life. He seems to have a fix on every thought, not to say plan, concerning his enemies. Once last year, as the presidential limousine was driving through northern Uganda, some opponents ambushed the car and pumped it full of machine-gun bullets, killing all the occupants. But Amin had switched cars down the road —and survived. Later, a grenade bounced off Amin's cheek in another assassination try and rolled away before it exploded, killing Amin's driver. He has often said that he has been told in a dream exactly when and how he is going to die. "But I cannot tell you," he once remarked to TIME Correspondent Lee Griggs, "because that would spoil the suspense."

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