Africa Report

September-October 1975, Volume 20, No 5


On August 3, 1975, the day after holding his inaugural press conference as chairman of the OA U, President Amin of Uganda informally briefed five journalists. Two were Egyptians and two were Palestinians. The fifth correspondent was Africa Report editor, Anthony Hughes. With Field Marshal Amin’s permission he recorded the two-hour meeting, key parts of which are reproduced below.


AMIN: I was not interested in being President. First of all I must make it clear to you that I was forced to be President at gun-point. Therefore if there is a coup d’etat in Uganda, it will be against the armed forces, not against me. That is why you find I am free to meet anybody and consider everyone in Uganda responsible for my security; not only the armed forces but the people. I think the people of Uganda are very grateful because in the continent of Africa South of the Sahara no other head of state has done for his people what I did. I have made history. There may be a few people, three or four perhaps, who speak against me in exile; but I would say that 98 or 99 per cent of the people of Uganda and of Africa are with me.

That is why I am not afraid. I travel with one person, as you saw me arriving in my car, because that one person could pass a message if the car broke down. I consider every person in Uganda, everyone in this area, as my brothers and sisters.


QUESTION: What about a party system, Sir?


AMIN: I am a progressive leader. My policy is based upon progress. You can have a party but if that party has no progress for the people of the country, the party is useless. Therefore the most important thing is to unite your people nationally and then after uniting them you can see how you are going to reorganize. We are already preparing the Uganda National Union which will be a base for everybody – in the armed forces, in the police, prison force and the public. We have already prepared the forum. All that remains is for me to sign a decree declaring the name of the forum. We have got to mobilize the people first. They will be elected from every coun­ty of Uganda to represent their people in a National Assembly. I shall be the chairman and will have the power to appoint and to dismiss any member, in cooperation with the people from the county.


QUESTION: Would this be a stage towards civilian rule?


AMIN: You see there is no meaning of civilian rule under my government because you find that my government, which is a military government, actually has more civilian members than have other countries with military rule. The military in the government are only 25 per cent and 75 are civilian. We consider things from a national standpoint and therefore the military and civilians must be combined. You have more chance as a civilian in Uganda than in other Africa countries.


QUESTION: Would you go forward, in time, for election as President?


AMIN: Yes.


QUESTION: You have spoken of the National Union of Uganda and of the Parliament.


AMIN: The two are together. Parliament will follow from the formation of the party.


QUESTION: Similar to the system in Egypt, the Arab Socialist Union?


AMIN: But myself, I did not want to go to socialism because socialism is from the Soviet Union and from communist China. Therefore I considered that I must have something which is pure Africa because if I want to follow socialism I shall be following the Soviet Union or China. The National Union of Uganda will be independent of any power in the world.


QUESTION: Can you tell us about the case of Mr. Dennis Hills?


AMIN: This man was most important in the Western part of Uganda. He was lecturing in the teacher training college, not at the university as it was reported. Also he was a spy. Therefore I did not want to tell the British government, ‘If you do not do such-and-such I will do this to Dennis Hills’. Rather I wanted to show them that we are capable of administering our people without any assistance – as we did at the O.A.U. Summit. They can see that the people are very happy. I wanted to show that the reports which Dennis Hills was writing against me and against Uganda were false. Therefore I just released him. If Lieutenant General Blair had not been so hot­ tempered, I could actually have handed Dennis Hills over to him. He had a hot temper; he had been my Commanding Of­ficer in the time of the King’s African Rifles and he thought I was still seeing him as ‘bwana mkubwa·. The time of the bwana mkubwa is gone. With this photograph I can show you that the bwana mkubwa is now me.


QUESTION: What is the purpose of your being carried by Our British men?


AMIN: Because I wanted to show that we Africans used to carry Europeans but now Europeans are carrying us. We are now the masters. These in front are pure Englishmen. One behind is Welsh and another Irish and the one holding the um­brella is Scottish – and I was wearing the Scottish cap. They came from Britain and wanted to show that I really have power in my country. I am not being controlled by any super power.


QUESTION: Before you came to power and during the period which followed, there was a lot of what was called kondo-ism, armed robbery and thuggery in the country. What is the state of affairs now as far as personal security is concerned? These robbers had sophisticated guns which made others think they were soldiers carrying out the robberies; were they?


AMIN: Those kondo were former General Service Unit members, the regiment of former President Obote. Most of them were from his tribe. Those people were armed but they were not disciplined soldiers. They were poorly paid. Therefore they went to force people at gunpoint, in the bars, to get money and free drink. Even they went to force peoples’ wives to rape them. But when I came to power they found they were doing something bad against the citizens of Uganda and they had to run to Tanzania and then they became an army there to invade Uganda together with the Tanzanian People’s Defence Force. They invaded us in 1972. Some of them are still there. You hear that in Tanzania there are many kondo going round, stealing property, killing people. These people had no discipline. That is why I eliminated them from Uganda and they ran away to Tanzania, where they are now causing damage in the countryside and towns. If you walk on the streets of Dar es Salaam and you have money, I am sure you will be robbed.


But here I have to discipline the people and after that I will train them to be friendly with one another. I am still in the stage of mobilizing them. I am issuing a decree dealing with the people who are in town without jobs. They will be taken to study in prison farms and industries. For one year they will be fed by the government. After that they will form co-operatives and we shall assist them until they begin to earn money. We are working according to a plan. We do not want to educate our people along foreign lines. We have to educate them accor­ding to our culture.


We want to educate them in a way we think is good for them with their agreement. That is why I called people from all cor­ners of Uganda to discuss it with me – elders, young – and then I take a decision on that particular subject.


QUESTION: What are your views on the liberation of South Africa and Palestine?


AMIN: The liberation of Africa and Palestine is very impor­tant. At first, Africa did not know very well about the Arabs. Palestine is at the center of the Arab lands. It is a land which both Christians and Muslims regard as important for their religion. It is in Palestine that the Prophet Mohammed was born. Therefore this needs careful understanding and the peo­ple of Africa should be taught.


I was in the chair in the secret Summit meeting on this sub­ject. It was one of the toughest discussions in the history of the OA U. Some Presidents wanted to leave for reasons of other duties or health but I said no-one should leave until we finish­ed. President Mobutu said he would not support the expulsion of Israel from the United Nations. That does not mean that one country out of the 46 OAU members has the power to make Africa follow what he thinks. It shows that every coun­try had the freedom to speak. I am speaking on behalf of the majority. All of Africa wanted Zionist Israel to be forced, pressured to leave the illegally-occupied Arab territories and to allow the Palestinians to go back to their country. The en­tire people of Africa support that and say the Palestinians must be able to return to their country. But what brought a small misunderstanding in that top secret meeting was the statement made by my brother, His Excellency President Sadat, at Khartoum airport, when he said that he was not in favor of supporting the expulsion of Israel from the U. N. Yet his country is the one of which the greatest part was captured by the Israelis. It was that statement which brought about a change of mind in the conference, causing doubt. When we received a report of that statement the leaders of Africa were shocked. They said, ‘We are supporting the Arab cause and the front line in Africa is Sadat. Yet he is not in favor of expelling Israel from the U.N. Whom can we now support?’ Even Mobutu said Zaire should not be blamed because it was President Sadat’s statement which made him change his mind not support Israel’s expulsion.


If Israel refused to get out of Palestine and also the Arablands which they occupied illegally then we shall have to discuss within the OAU and find ways and means of putting pressure on Israel. But if the front line Egypt is not supporting the Arab cause, what can I say? It is demoralizing the whole continent of Africa. I must tell you this frankly. Even I will tell my brother Sadat. I love him very much. He has some economic problems: but now to support his case is very difficult. But you should know that the majority of Africa is on our revolutionary side, supporting the Palestinians. There only six African countries which are weak, including Egypt


QUESTION: What is your view of Kissinger’s step-by-step approach to the Middle East?


AMIN: I know that America is being controlled by Jews. Some of the Americans are not very happy. I have been with many Americans. They are straightforward and frank. But I don’t know because I don’t have knowledge of America. After I came to power, during the October, 1973 Middle East War, I told the Americans that if they involved themselves in that war I would put all the Americans in the country in jail. Then they ran away, therefore I don’t have any information at all about America.


QUESTION: Are you hoping that relations with the United States may improve? In that connection, if you go to the U in New York, would you, as other chairmen of the OAU h done, also call on the United States’ President?


AMIN: If the U. S. President does not want me to go, I can still go to the U. N. He will be embarrassed because I am reporting the voice of all 46 independent African countries. Therefore if he respects the entire people of Africa he can receive properly. But if he cannot receive me I will go to my Embassy to the U.N. and after delivering my report from the 46 African countries which selected me to represent them, I will come back straight away. If the government and people of the United States want to meet me I am ready, because I will go to the U.N. If they do not allow me to go because it is within the United States and they refuse me entry, then the U.N. will have to think seriously of transferring itself to another part of the world. I am not going there as President of the Republic of Uganda. I am going there as president and chairman of the Organization of African Unity. If they refuse me permission it means they are not only refusing me but also the entire 46 independent African countries. I will not allow anyone to go to represent me. I shall go represent Africa. I will show them that Africa is not in the pockets of anybody. The specific time that I want to be in New York, that is the time I shall be there.


Question: What are your views on contacts between Africa and South Africa?


AMIN: Anyone who has any dialogue with South Africa or Rhodesia now is against the principles and charter of the OAU. He is speaking for himself but not for Africa.


QUESTION: Would you include the discussions held by Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana in your condemnation?


AMIN: Nyerere was condemned in his country, at the OAU Liberation Committee meeting in Dar es Salaam by the Foreign Minister of Kenya, because of his dialogue with Rhodesia and South Africa. The subject was brought before the Heads of State and Government of the OAU, who confirmed the condemnation. They are doing this without the knowledge of the OAU. Even the secretariat does not know about this and we condemn them completely.


QUESTION: May I congratulate you, sir, on your recent marriage. Arising out of that, and this being International Women’s Year, what is your view of women’s rights, marriage and polygamy, bearing in mind that you have more than one wife yourself?


AMIN: I think in Africa, notably here in Uganda, some chiefs used to have more than 100 wives. I think that myself, in my position as Field Marshal and also the President of the country, I must have more than one wife. According to our culture, and if you are a Muslim, you can have four wives at a time, not counting ones you have divorced. If you have two or three you can bring another one. You must be in a position to give each wife all the hospitality she wants. I have known my latest wife since the time of the 1973 October war. She is a very revolutionary woman. I have been with her. She is a member of the Suicide Mechanized Revolutionary Regiment. She was with me in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and in the liberated areas of Guinea-Bissau before they were fully in­dependent.


QUESTION: What do you see happening during the next ten years?


AMIN: There will be great changes in the world; in Europe, in Asia, in Africa. There will be a war between Russia and China and it is going to be a real disaster. I cannot disclose everything. East and West Europe may unite against the rest of the people of the world. This is 2:30 pm, 3 August 1975. You make a note and ten years from now see if it has happened.


QUESTION: What are the prospects for uniting Blacks in Africa and in America?


AMIN: I want to unite them completely, not only in America and in Africa, but all over the world. In the U. S., Latin America and the Caribbean there are over 83 million Blacks and there are 23 million in other parts of the world. I have spoken at a high level within the OAU, explaining that we must unite with these people.


QUESTION: You have received arms from the Soviet Union. Does this represent any change or any pressure on your policy?


AMIN: No. You see I am a free man. The Soviet Union does not control Field Marshal Amin. Nor does Britain or any other super power. I want to be very friendly with the Soviet Union, China, America, Britain, France, anybody. I got from the Russians what I wanted but they should not dictate to me how I should use it. Even if I am eliminated from being the’ President of Uganda, no member of the armed forces will permit whatever President who follows me· to be in the pocket of the Soviet Union, China, Britain or America. Anybody who says I am communist is deceiving himself I am not communist or capitalist. I just want to follow my own line of Uganda ways, following what is good according to African culture. The arms which I am getting for the defence of my people do not represent any pressure. If you start getting arms because you might change your policy towards that big power, then you are lost completely. If I found that any country was putting pressure on me because of arms or any assistance, I would leave that country and go to others who would be friendly without putting pressure on me.


QUESTION: What do you have to say about the investment of Arab capital?


AMIN: The Arabs must invest in Africa. When the Arabs in­vest in Europe, the Europeans buy raw materials from Africa. They manufacture arms and those arms are supplied to Zionist Israel which uses them to smash and kill the people of Palestine and of the Arab world. They are using that money to give more armaments to South Africa.


That money should aid Arab-African co-operation. I can strengthen our position and make our unity very, very strong. All the people of Africa want strong ties with the Arabs. No African President should deceive himself on this.


QUESTION: Do you feel there is any kind of military threat from outside Uganda?


AMIN: After assessing the situation in this particular region, I think no country can speak louder than Uganda. No country can speak louder than Uganda militarily. I think we are superior in this particular region.


QUESTION: What about your relations with Israel?


AMIN: Israelis all over the world are against me. Recently former foreign Minister Eban was talking about me, saying that I asked him to give me some Phantoms and other aircraft to bomb Tanzania. But I never asked him for aircraft. They are just putting out this report so that I will be very hot-tempered. But I am not against any country; I am not against Tanzania. I am superior to that country. I consider them as my brothers and I want to have excellent relations with them.


QUESTION: Do you think that the absence of Presidents Nyerere and Kaunda from the Kampala OAU Summit meant that the conference did not have full power?


AMIN: Don’t you think that this meeting was most powerful? It was the first time for President Qaddafy of Libya to attend; the first time President Sadat attended an OAU meeting south of the Sahara. It was the first time that Yasser Arafat traveled south of the Sahara. It was a really big victory. Therefore it has weakened the position of Nyerere and Kaunda. Those people are very shameful.


QUESTION: Do you think Africa will soon be entirely free?


AM IN: Many countries will soon be free. We are coming to the end of the liberation struggle. Now what we want is to start economic unification in the African and Arab world, including communication by air, by sea, by land.


QUESTION: What about an African army?


AMIN: I know already how many countries want to join in the liberation of the southern part of Africa but I cannot disclose this to you now. We want Zambia and Mozambique to be friendly to us, to allow us transit facilities, so that we are in a position to liberate that part of Africa. We don’t want them to join in the war.


QUESTION: Is it true that Britain threatened to attack Uganda at the time of the Hills affair?


AMIN: Lieutenant General Blair said, ‘We shall attack you completely.’ I told him that we can intercept anything because we have the most up-to-date radar. We can see automatically any movement from low to high altitude, from Kenya or Tanzania or other countries surrounding us.


QUESTION: Why did they send such undiplomatic people?


AMIN: No, I like General Blair very much because he promoted me. He was my bwana mkubwa. I took it lightly, after putting him kneeling down to me in my house, going on his knees. In my house, inside, I had only one chair, for me. I was wearing my big chief’s hat. I wanted just to make it funny.


QUESTION: Would you like the Ugandan exiles to return?


AMIN: They are free, this is their home. They must come and build the nation.


QUESTION: Some people are afraid to come back because you may, as they see it, mistreat them. They see what happened to your former foreign minister who rose very quickly and was very soon in disgrace. They are afraid.


AMIN: A former foreign minister like this Elizabeth Bagaya. Do you think what she did was very good? It was very bad, completely bad. I have a bad picture of her – even, you can see that it is her. Because of the support which has come from the western press, which we call the imperialist press, she is on the side of the imperialists. I have the photos. That is why she is quiet. She cannot talk. I told her, if she talks I will publish the photograph. Even the men and women in her delegation, she was using as her porters. You know she comes from the royal family and she thinks she is still queen or something.


QUESTION: Do you have a problem of tribalism in Uganda?


AMIN: We have many tribes but I am uniting them together. The biggest enemy in Black Africa is tribalism. The British came and tried to make people fight one another, Christian against Muslim. It was actually what is happening in Northern Ireland; the British wanted to bring it to Uganda. The best Christian is the best Muslim. Muslims know more about the Bible than the Christians do. Muslims trust a good Christian. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ you will not be a very good Muslim.


QUESTION: How about Judaism?


AMIN: You must believe in all religions, in all prophets. The only misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians is that Christians say Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Muslims say no, he is a prophet. Otherwise Christians and Muslims are the same.

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