CBC Digital Archives

Calling Idi Amin

When explosions and gunfire rock the Ugandan capital of Kampala in February 1979, there is rampant speculation that dictator Idi Amin has been overthrown. But when CBC Radio's As It Happens tries to reach Amin, host Barbara Frum is in for a surprise. An unidentified source (who may or may not be Amin) crows about conquering the British Empire, corrects her grammar and then erupts with laughter. On a second call, the state house representative in Entebbe insults Frum, gives her a fake phone number and then hangs up. A classic episode of international diplomacy from the CBC Archives!
• Idi Amin Dada rose through the ranks of the King's African Rifles (Britain's colonial troops in Africa) and became commander of the Ugandan Army after the country gained independence in 1963. He deposed president Milton Obote in a military coup in 1971 and ruled Uganda until he was forced out in April 1979. He died in Saudi Arabia in 2003.

• In the years before his exile, Amin gave himself the title "His Excellency President for Life Field Marshal Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular."

• Amin's dictatorship was marked by violence, murder and repression. According to the U.S. publication Foreign Affairs, "Uganda is synonymous with state-become-slaughterhouse. The most conservative estimates by informed observers hold that President Idi Amin Dada and the terror squads operating under his loose direction have killed 100,000 Ugandans in the seven years he has held power." The CIA World Factbook puts the number at 300,000, while other estimates range as high as half a million.

Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: Feb. 5, 1979
Host: Barbara Frum, Gordon Jones
Duration: 5:53
Photo: Idi Amin speaking at a conference in 1973. Associated Press file photo.

Last updated: February 6, 2014

Page consulted on February 6, 2014

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