History September 17, 2014 at 03:05 pm

Ugandan Exiles Attempted Idi Amin Coup On This Day In 1972

D.L. Chandler | Contributor, F2FA

D.L. Chandler September 17, 2014 at 03:05 pm

September 17, 2014 at 03:05 pm | History

Idi Amin coup

The ousting of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (pictured) from power in 1979 was a hard-fought battle. When Amin overthrew President Milton Obote’s government in 1971, many resisted the change of power. On this day in 1972, Ugandan exiles living in Tanzania attempted to take back Uganda in a deadly and failed mission.

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In January 1971, Amin’s coup ousted Obote and several key figures who all found sanctuary in Tanzania under the leadership of President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. Although Amin had a small measure of support from some Ugandans, many forgot that he was a part of Obote’s oppressive military force that enacted forceful laws on the people.

On that day, around 77 trucks, carrying armed Ugandan exiles, crossed from Tanzania in to the towns of Bukoba and Mwanza in an attempt to overtake them. The raid was broken apart after Amin deployed his air force to bomb the towns.

Many of the exiles were captured and slaughtered, and Uganda’s future president was at risk of losing his life if it weren’t for George Walwanyi.

Walwanyi, a soldier who was a brother of slain former public service and cabinet affairs minister George Wakholi, was part of the exile forces led by future and incumbent President Yoweri Museveni. When Museveni’s forces were under a barrage of gunfire from Amin’s troops, he ordered a retreat but none among them could drive. Museveni asked if any of the soldiers could drive, to which Walwanyi responded.

Yoweri Museveni

Below is part of Walwanyi’s account via New Vision:

“After the three cars were arranged, Museveni insisted that I lead, but I told him since he did not know how to drive, he leads and then the two of us follow him. My reasoning was that if he drove behind me, he would easily knock me, and in case he crashed, we did not have communication and it would be impossible to save him.

“I took him through the basic driving skills and I must confess he is such a fast learner. But then most of the combatants were scared to drive in the other two lorries because the drivers were learners. When we reached the Mbarara roundabout, instead of going around, Museveni went through because he could not negotiate it.”

Museveni did indeed crash his vehicle, but the group was able to make it to a camp in Nakingwea near Mozambique. Walwanyi joined Museveni’s ranks as a sergeant but later returned to the calm of civilian life. Walwanyi, who has been struggling to make ends meet, says he has yet to reconnect with President Museveni, the man whose life he essentially saved.

Amin’s response to the uprising was harsh as expected, and he also attempted his own takeover of Tanzania in 1978: On October 27, 1978, Amin forces attacked the Kagera Salient region, which was north of the Kagera River.

A five-month war was sparked between the two nations, leading to Amin fleeing Uganda in to permanent exile. President Obote then returned to his former post before Museveni assumed the role in 1986.

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