Idi Amin was no fool. Despite the numerous caricatures as a lunatic murderer he was a towering figure both in Uganda and the African continent, and he outwitted all his opponents until his downfall. When he came into power after having engineered a military coup to overthrow President Milton Obote, the nemesis of Britain, he was the darling of the West. He was lavishly praised for his bravery in ridding Uganda of a dictator who had increasingly become a thorn in Britain’s side. But when he began to make demands on Britain to discharge its aid commitments to Uganda, the British chose to ridicule him for his ‘buffoonery’. He turned instead to Libya for his immediate financial needs, and that was the beginning of both the widening gulf between Britain and Idi Amin, and also the establishment of a new dictator in Africa.
He was an uneducated man, but he was deeply cunning and calculating. With his effusive charm and outward affability he was able to disarm his enemies and then catch them unawares. Though he ran his administration with the help of the elite civil servants of the country it was by his animal instincts that he kept himself in power. As internal economic problems grew, he made scapegoats of the Asians of Uganda, blaming them for all the ills of the country. In a masterstroke he succeeded in expelling the Asian community from Uganda in 1972 without any serious repercussions from the West. He wrested away the economy of Uganda from the hands of the Asians and put it into the lap of the Africans of his country, who loved him for this and his other exploits in a way that can only be compared to the way Germans had once loved Hitler.