Saturday, 8 February 2020

Amin's Rule.

In the first few weeks after the 1971 coup
d'etat, Amin set about eliminating suspected opponents in the army.  While Obote used the 1967 Detention Act to lock his opponents in prisons where they were "well treated."  Amin killed them.  Such was the fate of various high-ranking officers known or perceived to be his opponents.  There were mass killings of members of the GSU, the Special Force, Police, Prisoners and civilians.  Victims were abducted by loyal security men, put on trucks and taken to prisons like Luzira, Makindye, Mutukula, and Jinja, which had been turned into slaughterhouses.
Bodies were dumped in lakes, rivers, forests, and isolated areas.  Mass graves were dug near barracks by prisoners who were themselves eventually killed.  Traditional Kakwa rituals were resurrected.  Parts of the body, including the penis, were often cut off and ceremoniously put into the mouth of the victim.  If the victime was a tough opponent of the regime, his head was preserved and "addressed" by those in authority.

Amin consolidated his base in the army by using his own ethnic groups.  In march 1971 more than thirty Acholi/ Langi soldiers were dynamited at Makindye Barracks.  On 22 July 1971 about 150 to 500 Acholis and Langi from Simba Battalion, Mbarara, were hearded into trucks, taken to an isolated ranch, and gunned down.  On going to Israel and Europe in July 1971, Amin gave orders for the elimination of the Langi and Acholi soldiers fearing they might organize a coup.  At Mbarara soldiers from these ethnic groups were separated from the rest and taken to their deaths.  On 9 July 1971 about twenty new Acholi/Langi recruits were killed; more died the following day.  Between 10 and 14 July 1971 some fifty Acholi/ Langi soldiers were killed at Magamaga Ordnance Depot.  Further massacres of these ethnic groups occurred at military barracks at Masindi, Soroti, and Kitgum.  On 5 February 1972, about 117 soldiers and other security men of the Obote regime were mowed down as they tried to escape.

What is upsetting about Ugandans is that while the Langi and Acholi suffered, many laughed thinking their turn would never come.......  But wherever violence occurs in the state, it eventually overflows to everyone.  By 1971 the fires of political violence that had been lit at Nakulabye were spreading into the rural areas of Apac, Lira and Gulu.  Soon they would scorch all the land.

Amin based his support in the armyon the Kakwa and Nubi, with the former Anyanya Zairean and Sudanese forming the nucleus to which were attached other West Nile groups like the Madi, the Lugbara, and the Alur.  Other individuals were bound to Amin or his lieutenants on a clientele basis, including Smartus Guwedeko.  Francis Itabuka, Kassimu Obura, and many others.  His political fortunes began to decline when he narrowed his base by gradually trimming th larg West Nile support in the army.  From 1971 to 1972 the Alur were gradually marginalized.  Lieutenant Colonel Valentine Ochima, an Alur with a following in the army, was imprisoned in July 1971 and shot the following year.  After the 1972 invasion of Uganda by Ugandan exiles, Alurs were removed from most strategic positions.  The turn of the Madi came in late 1972.  Amin accused all Madi of drunkenness and removed them from sensitive positions.  He then called in Madi elders to explain to them the crimes of "their sons".  Pruning of the Lugbara began in early 1972.  Their "son," Obitre-Gama, was dismissed in march as Minister of Internal affairs, brought back in a minor portfolio and again dismissed in mid 1973.  Another Lugbara, Lieutenan Colonel Ondoga, the ambassador to Moscow, was recalled and made minister of Foreign Affairs.  He was later publicly dismissed and his body was found floating in a river.  Many Lugbaras were killed at this time.  Amin dismissed his Lugbara wife, though he took the opportunity to divorce two more from other ethnic groups as a show of "tribal impartiality."

By 1975 the Kakwa-Nubi-Anyanya core had closed ranks and was the foundation of Amin's power machine.  They held most of the strategic positions, manned key installations, and easily grouped whenever there was trouble.  The other alienated West Nile groups did not fight Amin because they rightly judged that it was not in their interest to overthrow him.  If he were overthrown, they would be punished for their natural association with him.  Subsequent events have proved them right: the Acholi/Langi militia brutalized the whole population of West Nile in 1980-83 for being associated with Amin on ethnic basis.

Source:  The Social Origins of Violence in Uganda 1964-1985.

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