The dark traits, the murders, the torture and the dictatorial tendencies that rocked the core of Uganda during the period between 1971 to 1979 are the main reason the name Idi Amin Dada is permanently etched in the books of history. If history recorded him any different he would have gone down like any other boring democratic leader who came to lead and left.
The irony is that the horrendous acts committed by Idi Amin are what made him an interesting character. We focus so much on how he failed as a democratic leader and how he succeeded in the killings that eventually earned him the nickname “the butcher of Africa.”
It is crucial in the assessment of any human’s life to divulge all his deeds then judge what outweighs the other between good and bad then proceed to pass judgment. Idi Amin although often depicted in the dark light of his torture chambers had a good side to him that is never retold but is still something he had regardless. It is crucial to bring into light these traits although there is a strong majority that deems Idi Amin a terrible leader it is trite to not bury the good he had in him and those moments he succeeded as a father, soldier, and statesman.
In his days as a soldier for the King’s African Rifles (KAR) a regiment of the British colonial army Idi Amin attained the rank of Effendi the highest position attainable by a black soldier in the (KAR). Amin had risen from being a Chef’s assistant to an Effendi. According to an article on History.com Amin was the light heavyweight boxing champion in the army for 9 years between 1951-1960.
As a statesman, Idi Amin saw through the completion of the Organisation of African Union conference center and Nile Hotel. During his tenure as president, the exchange rate of the shilling remained steady between 7shillings to 7.50 shillings per united states dollar. He, therefore, ensured the local currency retained its value.
Idi Amin is further credited with the creation of Uganda’s first and only Airline (The Uganda Airlines Corporation). He ensured Ugandans had a local carrier which eventually stopped operations in 2001, years after his demise. According to the Uganda National Housing Statistics NHCC built flats and bungalows during the reign of Idi Amin Bugolobi (872), Bukoto White (130), Bukoto Brown (180), Kololo (80), Nakasero (44), Wandegeya (136).
The administration of Amin ensured the formation and expansion of the Uganda Railways Corporation after the dissolution of East African Railways and Harbours Corporation in 1977. This made transportation of heavy equipment inland easy compared to the alternative of ox-drawn wagons. This expedited the export of coffee and tea.
During his tenure, Nigeria was the only state which had a satellite station. Under Amin, satellite stations were set up at Mpoma in Mukono and at Ombaci in his home region of West Nile. Despite destabilizing the economy for a year succeeding its’ implementation of the expulsion of non-citizen Asians in 1972, there was the rise of a black-led business class. He promoted the majority to lead the economy and allowed them to either grow it or plunge it into the ground a luxury previously kept from them.
A France 24 article Hero or Dictator? Ugandans divided over Idi Amin Dada’s legacy by Thais Brouck articulate how Uganda has the second youngest economy in the world with 80% of its population under 30. The article depicts how hospitals, roads, and infrastructure built during Amin’s time outlived his dark chapters and further, on how most of the important structures in Kampala were constructed under Amin furthermore during his tenure Uganda led the world in coffee production. These are things that were done under the hands of the ‘butcher of Africa”.
The brand that is Idi Amin Dada is a strong marketing tool for Uganda’s tourism on which they benefit to this day. According to an Aljazeera article as a father Amin was a very loving father far from the dictator people saw and he never beat his children as recalled by his daughter Mainmuna Amin.
It is untrue to suggest Ugandans approved of the brutalities of Amin, what needs more explaining is the ambivalence of the modern-day Ugandans rather than any unqualified approval of him. He left a legacy that has heads knocking he brought with him economic growth and well as economic independence for the black Ugandan people.
Most of the world is quite stern in its judgment of the evil that was Amin. For most Ugandans, for part of his time in office, his reign was not that of unmitigated evil as is often depicted of a man who was evil through and through. To them he had a profoundly dialectical quality of heroic evil and whether one applauds or denounces the evil depending on one’s perception and priorities.