Today’s young generation of Africans have little knowledge of the key role that President Idi Amin played in support of African liberation movements in the 1970s.
Many are unaware that between 1975 and 1979 when he left for Libya and then Saudi Arabia, the most vocal African leader against Apartheid was Idi Amin. It is he who mobilised Africans to support the struggle via the famous frontline states from where Africans could launch attacks against the fascist Apartheid regime. It is Amin who as Chairman of the African union in 1975-76, lobbied tirelessly for the fund by African countries to support the fighters and provide arms and medicine to the different liberation struggles that were still taking place all over Southern Africa. In fact his original idea in 1975 was for all African countries to contribute at least 1000 soldiers each into a PanAfrican force which would then wage all-out war against the racist Apartheid regime.
President Amin is the person who brought about the imperative need to boycott the 1976 Montreal Olympics in Canada and the subquent Commonwealth games of 1978. History does not tell you that before the end of his term as Chairman of the African Union, President Amin had called for the boycott that resulted in Uganda and 25 other African countries all withdrawing from the games under what came to be known as 'The African Boycott'.
Real Pan-Africanism of the times united African countries in solidarity against the injustice meted out on our black South African brothers and sisters. A people who were being persecuted under Apartheid yet Britain and all western powers were still supporting the evil white South African regime and its policy of segregation against the indigenous black people. A nation from whom European colonialists had stolen their land and now conspired together to continue oppressing them, discriminating against them, torturing them, jailing them and even wantonly murdering black South Africans for wanting their dignity and country back.
That was the reason behind the African boycotts of 1976 and 78. Idi Amin was leading the difficult struggle to liberate South Africa from Apartheid in all ways possible especially in the continental and international arenas . Approximately 20 of the 26 countries who withdrew from the competition had already travelled to Montreal but then summarily recalled all their teams home. The boycott continued in the 1978 Commonwealth games two years later.
The list of countries that boycotted the 1976 Montreal Olympics included Libya, Iraq, Kenya, Zambia, Nigeria, Gambia, Sudan, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Algeria, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Gabon, Chad, Togo, Niger, Congo, Mauritius, Upper Volta (Burkina Faso) and Malawi.
As Western Empires were clinging on to the continent, Idi Amin took a highly celebrated stand against neo-colonialism and Western exploitation in Africa. He was named 'Conqueror of the British Empire' for kicking the British out of Uganda in 1972, after which he joined other African leaders in the Non-Aligned Movement, a coalition of newly independent countries that were neither communist nor under the Western block during the cold war.
Obviously the colonial empires were angered against the flamboyant African leader and had to conduct an evil campaign of demonization. A plot that was mainly engineered by the British government's secret service and the CIA.
But at the time it was quite difficult since Amin was immensely popular in Uganda and across Africa.
First it is Amin who had liberated Ugandans from a little-known Fascist leader called Milton Obote who was actually hated by Ugandans but hardly anyone beyond the country's borders ever heard of him.
In regards to the legacy of President Idi Amin, several accomplishments are remembered by Ugandans to this day:
- His economic policies that empowered indeginous Ugandans and therefore initiated the true Ugandan economy (as opposed to the exploitative British imperial economy that existed until then)
- Amin's incorruptible leadership where he never enriched himself from state coffers, and was a man of the people who always took time to appear alone and mix with the ordinary masses in town or in upcountry villages and listened to their problems by hearing directly from the people.
- President Amin embarked on major development projects in Uganda including transport (mainly Uganda railways and Uganda Airlines), satellite telecommunications for global reception of international media and telephony, revamped banking sector with the countrywide expansion of Uganda Commercial Bank, expanded hotel & tourism industry, and modernization of agriculture through well equipped cooperative unions around the country.
- It is only under Idi Amin that Uganda's trade balance became positive, with the value of the countries exports largely exceeding its imports. A feat that is rare in Africa, didn't happen even under colonialism and has never again happened ever since he left the country.
- Uganda had no national debt under Amin. He paid for every thing the government purchased and Uganda lived within its means. The currency was stable (one US Dollar was equal to 7 Uganda Shillings. Today for example the Uganda currency has depreciated and one dollar is now equal to 3700 Uganda shillings).
- He also ensured Africanization of the skills to sustain the economy by sending tens of thousands of Ugandans abroad for technical training and higher education so that indeginous Ugandans could handle all aspects of public administration, health, education, industry and business.
- His government invested in new industries and self help projects under cooperative unions for rural communities across the country so as to provide jobs and incomes, plus uplift the standards of living in rural Uganda.
- He personally promoted tourism and worked towards preservation of Uganda's rich wildlife and the environment where he would invite foreign journalists for tours to showcase the country's natural diversity.
- Women's emancipation was a key element during the Amin government. He made sure girls had access to education and women had access to businesses nationalized after the expulsion of the British and their Indian cronies. He also deliberately gave women senior and mid-level positions in public administration as part of his policy to support women. The first ever Ugandan woman government minister. The first ever Ugandan woman judge. The first ever Ugandan woman ambassador. The first ever Ugandan women directors and managers in government corporations. All happened thanks to Amin. For the first time women had their own finances, their own businesses, and their own jobs. President Idi Amin spoke out against traditional norms that kept women in the kitchen. In 2013 a gender reseacher Alicia C. Deckers wrote: "One of the most curious outcomes of Idi Amin's military government, was the liberation and emancipation of Ugandan women. By expelling the Asian population in late 1972, Amin opened up a new economic space for women. Whether they engaged in trade or because they received a shop ‘abandoned’ by the departed Asians, numerous women fondly remembered Amin as the one who ‘taught us how to work’, and Ugandans in general remember Amin as "the one who opened our eyes to business". For the first time, Ugandans gained access to financial resources and the related decision-making power."
Most of the successful industries and local entrepreneurs in Uganda today started doing business in the 70's thanks to Idi Amin's affirmative action to support and build a truely indigenous-led economy. That generation has inspired the new breed of Ugandan businessmen and women who have come up today. Before Amin, black Ugandan's had been deliberately prevented by the British colonial regime from engaging in business. Even trade unions for Ugandan labourers were banned and many activists jailed. The colonial regime had unilaterally decided that trade and industry was reserved for the Asians whom they forcefully shipped en-mass to East Africa. They also dictated that the indeginous people of Uganda would only serve as the workforce and the hard labour.
This situation led to rampant abuse and racism against Ugandans. The central business district of the capital city Kampala was almost completely white Asian with the occasional black nannies or other black workers who had to leave by 5pm to head back to their empoverished suburbs.
98% of the entire economy profited only these 30,000 colonialists while the entire indeginous population, around 5 million people at the time, were left to survive on the remaining 2%.
It is this inequality, discrimination and exploitation in their own country that caused Amin to correct the situation by expelling the British and the Asians, nationalising their businesses, compensating them for all their properties, and then redistributing the properties to all Ugandans. Thus from the British Imperial economy that existed until 1972, it is Idi Amin who founded the true Ugandan economy that continues to this day.
Somehow the British and their Asian cronies never mention that after the expulsion, they were all fully compensated for every single property. Amin was no corrupt leader.
The implementation of these groundbreaking policy initiatives are what has made the Ugandan people consider Idi Amin as the country's most patriotic leader ever.
So the real question is why is the Western media mysteriously silent about all the Amin successes, especially about his soaring popularity across Africa in the 70's, and what the Ugandan people truly say about their leader?
The answer is that it was a deliberate British operation to discredit him.
British intelligence paid witnesses to claim that 500,000 Ugandans had been killed by Amin. The information was then smuggled into an Amnesty International report.
But nobody has spared a minute to ask where are the remains or evidence of the 500,000 people who they purport that he killed?
The answer to those two questions is simple: They are non existent.
Western powers have done such a good job at the indoctrination of Africans that even the so-called Panafricanists of today get their information about Amin from the very colonialists who sought to tarnish his image.
Today's Panafricanists are completely unaware of how popular Idi Amin was around the African continent. Especially after he became the voice of African liberation struggles in 1975. He championed the fight against Apartheid and was applauded for proposing a common African military force to fight the fascist regime in South Africa, and then liberate the other African nations that were still under the chains of colonialism.
It is while Amin was Chairman of the Organization of African Unity and he proposed the creation of that African military contingent to fight colonialism that six African countries immediately gained their independence: Mozambique, Cape Verde, Comoro's, Angola, Djibouti, and Sao Tome.
Under Amin, African liberation leaders like Zimbabwe's Bishop Abel Muzorewa and Joshua Nkomo were always in Uganda. Others were Holden Roberto, Augustino Neto, Jonas Savimbi, and even Eduardo Dos Santos who just stepped down recently from Angola's presidency.
The Liberation groups like ANC (then known by Ugandans as Azania National Congress), Frelimo, Swapo, Unita, MPLA, and even the ANC female warriors whom Mama Winnie Mandela belonged to, were all trained, funded and armed by the Uganda marines, a specialized brigade of the Uganda armed Forces under President Idi Amin who fully supported their activities.
He offered them training camps in Uganda. He also gave them Ugandan passports and facilitated their movements to lobby for support around the world.
Many African leaders, particularly in Southern African countries, are silent about President Amin's immense support and contribution to their liberation struggles, and their efforts to free their people. They all forgot his sacrifice for their cause. Only Nelson Mandela remembered to thank Amin after his release from jail.
But what African youths today should know is that once upon a time, the most popular person on the African continent was President Idi Amin.
The media will not report that this was a man who never wanted to be president. They won't tell you that he was actually put at gun point by mutineering soldiers on Monday 24th January 1971 and forced to take charge of the country or be shot.
The western media and intelligence services conducted a well coordinated media campaign against President Idi Amin because he stood in the way of their greed, abuse and exploitation on many fronts, and they have now even managed to turn todays young African youths against someone whom African parents and grand parents held in high esteem as a true African hero back then.
Africans supported him because of his pro-African views against plunder, oppression, and exploitation of indigenous Africans by western imperialism.
However not all Africans have been fooled by the western media's alternative facts regardless of how widespread they are.
Upon his death in Saudi Arabia on 16th August 2003, Ambassadors and diplomats of African countries flocked his residence to mourn at his funeral. African students, African workers, and African pilgrims who were in the country to perform the Umra pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, attended the vigil as well. All hailed him for his stand against western powers and his defence of black people around the world. African Americans were present and they remembered him for his support to their civil rights movement as they struggled against the endemic racism and discrimination that persists in the United States of America to this day. President Idi Amin had supported black Americans and even met many black leaders including Louis Farrakhan and American boxing legend Muhammad Ali whom Amin admired immensely, especially because the Ugandan patriot had been a boxer himself in his youth days.
For a person whose parents were too poor to pay for his education, President Idi Amin was naturally brilliant and had to learn by himself at every step of the way during his life and career. As the boxer that he once was, he had to rise up to every challenge that was thrown at him. But those who were close to him will tell you how light-hearted, friendly and sociable he really was. Always ready to lend a helping hand even to people he didn't know. When he encountered a road accident, he would forget his title of President and personally rush the injured to the nearest hospital. He is known to have helped to transport a tired pregnant women to her home. He would drive alone around town and have a chat with excited citizens before jumping into his car and driving off. Ugandans remember him always saying "I am a soldier, not a politician." He was also a person who felt more comfortable amidst the ordinary folk. He came from a background where he could connect with the humble lives of his citizens. But he was also a person who was determined to see Africa succeed by its own hands and sweat from its own resources.
In the decade before Captain Thomas Sankara and Nelson Mandela, the African hero was President Idi Amin.