Idi Amin Dada's Domestic Policies in Uganda: 1971-1979 - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1816 Words
Date:  2023-01-26


This essay will critically examine the reasons and far-reaching consequences of the domestic policies of Uganda under the presidency of Idi Amin Dada from 1971 to 1979. The first source examined is, Frederick. "Collapse, War and Reconstruction in Uganda." An Analytical Narrative on State-Making (2008). The author is a political scientist who is a graduate of London School of Economics and Makerere University in Uganda and has an extensive research body on current affairs focusing in Africa. He has made a number of publications on politics and the political development through his book chapters and leading scientific journals. As a columnist, he has published and dispersed his knowledge to the citizens through the regional newspaper, The East African. He has also written on current affairs in the electronic and print media. Frederick is not only a regional publisher but also international publishers in the field of politics. This source is valuable because it is provides information that enable the reader understand the background and cause of the turbulence in Uganda and Idi Amin's accession to power. The source highlights the interaction and rivalry between the present tribes in Uganda. Besides, it gives and account of the high degree of prosperity, economic activity and social structure in the early Buganda kingdom which led to their dominance and, after colonial rule, the rise of ethnic divisions in Uganda. In Uganda, the Buganda Kingdom is the largest traditional kingdom comprising of the Ganda people.

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The dominance of the Buganda Kingdom laid the backdrop to the rise of power hungry governments and the use of military force under Idi Amin's predecessor, Milton Obote, and eventually leading to the coup d'etat in 1971.Therefore, the source is critical in understanding the consequences of colonial rule and ruling under Idi Amin. However, there is the need to be careful about the source because it is limited in that it interprets some of the actions of the leaders, making it subject to bias and speculation. The inclusion of some leaders and exclusion of others makes the source bias and example is the mention that it was doubtful' whether Amin would have seized power if Obote had not opened the way for military to intervene in politics'.

The second reference examined is Glentworth, G. and Hancock. "Obote and Amin: Change and Continuity in Modern Uganda Politics (1973). The authors Dr. Garth Glentworth was a lecturer of Local Government Studies at the University of Birmingham and Dr. Ian Hancock was a Senior Lecturer in History at the Australian National University at the time. This source portrays important aspects of how the political culture of Uganda at the time, namely nationalism, shaped the policies under Idi Amin's rule which in some cases were applauded at the time by other African nations. Also it shows the policies which govern the decisions that Idi Amin took eventually leading to the subduction of the Buganda Kingdom. The source is effective in showing the shifts in power, such as the ultimate power given to the Ugandan army and the President in 1970s. It also shows the rise of socialism under Obote's rule which subsequently resulted in his government being forcefully overthrown through a coup d'etat and the start of what seemed to be a nationalist state under Amin's rule. These shifts in power are correlated with the nationalistic policies that were adopted during Amin's presidency. The source mentions the backdrop to Amin's rule, however it does not address how specifically these actions brought the social destruction of Uganda.


Under Amin's presidency, three main domestic policies caused the catastrophic decline of Uganda's social, economic and political structure to anarchy - the expulsion of Asians, the expansion of the public sector and the changes in the nationalization of business and industry. Domestic policy is a collective of administrative decisions that directly relate to all issues and activities within a nation and that directly affect citizens of that country (Golooba-Mutebi 1). Pre-Amin, Uganda had a thriving agricultural sector, especially in coffee, tea, cotton and sugar commodities, and was part of the East African Community (EAC) - a collaborative group consisting of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (Leliveld and Brummelhuis 419). However, due to the climate of political uncertainty during Obote's rule and his 'divide and rule' policy within his own government, Amin was seen as a refreshing change, especially for the indigenous Ugandan population, as he was charismatic and was seen to be their voice (Golooba-Mutebi 8). Initially, Amin also enamored international allies such as Britain and the United States (Golooba-Mutebi 9). Hence, the domestic policies of Uganda had reasons and far-reaching consequences under the presidency of Idi Amin Dada from 1971 to 1979.

Expulsion of Asians

The breakdown of the commercial sector was a direct effect of the domestic policy to expel all Asians, approximately sixty thousand, from Uganda in 1972 by decree in a span of three months as a form of ethnic cleansing. Asians had emigrated from Northwest British India to build the Ugandan Railways in 1897, however they lacked political power as a group. They were no longer citizens of the Indian subcontinent and therefore could only identify themselves as Ugandan citizens to avoid being mistreated.

Ugandan Asian citizens, commonly called dukawallahs, over the course of nearly a century, had dominated the commercial sector of Uganda's modern economy to provide skilled and professional labour, enterprise and capital and amassed great wealth due to this. Imperatively, some of the indigenous Ugandans did not favour this unequal distr

ibution of wealth, so when Amin came to power, he was quick to recognize this aspect as a means of gaining popular support by showing that he would disseminate all wealth and dominance from this sect and distribute it amongst the indigenous Ugandans to promote personal position (Uzoigwe 262). Amin was vocal about his antipathy towards colonialism and its long-term effects on Uganda and therefore this was seen as a refreshing change by all Africans compared to Obote's "Move to the Left' towards socialism (Bhagat, 1618). In fact, if the subsequent decline in Uganda had not happened after the Asians left, there is speculation that other African nations would expelled Asians from their respective nations (10). Expelled Asians succeeded after returning to Uganda many years later and in countries such as Canada and the UK where they migrated

Amin's reign of terror first started with violence towards the Asians, giving the Ugandan Army unlimited power, and concentration camps and continued brutality for the remnant Asians past the November 7th 1972 exodus deadline (10). For the Asians, this was a traumatic experience, with many families split and starting a new life in an unknown country with no capital (11). Amin's dictatorship subsequently started to take over the Asian exodus when indigenous Ugandans (20), people of non-Islamic faiths and other non-locals especially of European descent also suffered murder and brutality (16) if they did not comply with Amin's regime. This domestic policy is therefore seen to be a consequence of the prevailing success of the Asian community and the move to empower indigenous Ugandans. In brief, the domestic policy was effective since it yield twofold benefits.

Expansion of the Public Sector

All Asian assets were taken and re-distributed to indigenous Ugandans, some with no knowledge of how to run a business or industry (10), affecting every economic and social sector of the Ugandan economy (14) where key activities in agricultural, mining and construction sectors declinedby 51%, 82% and 51% (Bhagat 1620).Production of commodities, such as sugar, declined rapidly leading to a black market economy and inflation for necessities. According to a comprehensive study by the European Economic Community (EEC), the government sector grew by 68% with a drop in social services by 72% and an increase in defense spending up to 50% of the budget by 1978. Annual inflation was at 200% with a scarcity of necessities.

Bribery and corruption were rife with civil servants acting as businessmen and where Amin's army had more power than the police.Amin's management of the government was very much in the style of a dictator running a military operation where he formed an advisory defense council of military commanders and gave soldiers top government positions and civilian ministers being subjected to military training and discipline above the system of civil law. Political hierarchy during Obote's rule changed to policy enforcement orally and rural Uganda was ruled by the local military. This meant that there was no separation between the lawmakers and law enforcement (Kyemba, 1977).

In aftermath, due to neglect, greed and incompetence demonstrated by Amin and his government that consisted mainly of his friends and family, Uganda became a corrupt nation on the verge of bankruptcy. Western allies such as Britain, Israel and the United States (17) as well as neighboring countries all withdrew their financial aid and support and imposed sanctions on Uganda sothe government then sought alliances with Egypt and Sudan (Oded, 73). The consequences of this domestic policy led to increase in bribery, corruption and the strengthening of an autocratic ruler.The domestic policy encouraged Amins autocratic ruler because they were in favor of their operations.

Change in the Nationalization of Business and Industry

After independence, nationalisation of businesses and industry was a major focus in Uganda during the rule of Obote. This led to changes in domestic and foreign policies including centralized planning and licensing. In 1971 under Obote's rule, 60% ownership of major industries, banks and commercial establishments was under government control (18) to ensure growth and employment expansion that in turn would improve standards of living for the indigenous Ugandans (21), especially in the rural sector as Uganda's economy was driven by exports of agricultural products. This was seen by many, including the Western nations, as a move towards socialism by Obote.

Upon seizing power, Amin's government reduced this state participation in the Ugandan economy in a move to combat the created fear of socialism. Instead, increased licensing fees, tariffs and penalties with import restrictions and exchange controls were imposed. Since there was a decreasing trend in agricultural production after the country participated more in the building the economy and strained international relations with loss of foreign investment, aid and trade, this led to a severe economic downturn as seen in Table 1 as seen in the massive changes in inflation rate, percentage growth figures, total external debt and GDP growth over the year 1971 to 1979.

Thus, Amin's agenda to favour the masses failed him as he impoverished the majority, caused decrease in foreign trade, aid and investment and the battered economy could not maintain the elite military expenditure which eventually led to his expulsion by Tanzanian troops and Ugandan rebel groups in 1979.


In this investigation, I examined a very interesting topic, as my mother was a child during the Ugandan exodus of Asians. After investigating more on this chapter of history, it increased my curiosity about the fate of those expelled Asians. Besides, I was intrigued by the success after returning to Uganda many years later and in countries such as Canada and the UK where they migrated (22).

As a history student, I used many of the tech...

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