He took up various odd jobs to support himself, before being recruited as an assistant cook in the army in 1946 by a British colonial army officer.
In 1947, he was transferred to Kenya where he rendered his service to the 21st KAR infantry battalion in Gilgil for two years.
In 1949, along with the unit, he was sent to fight against the Somali rebels in the ‘Shifta War’ in North Kenya.
In 1952, his brigade was deployed to deal with the Mau Mau rebels in Kenya. He was promoted to the post of corporal in the same year. The following year, he was promoted to the post of sergeant.
In 1959, he was promoted to the rank of ‘Afande’ (warrant officer), the highest rank a Black African could hope to reach in the colonial British Army at the time.
In 1959, he returned to Uganda. Two years later, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, thus becoming the second ever Ugandan to become a commissioned officer. In his new capacity, he was assigned the task of controlling cattle rustling between Uganda's Karamojong and Kenya's Turkana nomads.
The independence of Uganda from the United Kingdom brought more good news for Amin as he was promoted to the rank of captain in 1962, eventually becoming a major the following year. In 1964, he was appointed to the post of deputy commander of the army.
Meanwhile, he developed close relations with the then Ugandan Prime Minister and President Milton Obote. Along with Obote, he smuggled gold, coffee, and ivory from Zaire in exchange for arms and ammunitions to the rebel troops in Congo.
In 1971, following a conflict between Obote and himself, he carried out a military coup against Obote. He then took control of the reigns of the country and vouched to hold free and fair elections to resume democratic rule in the country.
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He arranged for a state funeral to former King of Buganda and President Sir Edward Mutesa and freed many political prisoners. He declared himself the president of Uganda, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, army chief of staff, and chief of air staff.
In his new role, he made several changes. He instituted an ‘Advisory Defence Council,’ which primarily composed of military officers. Furthermore, soldiers were appointed to top government posts and parastatal agencies. ‘General Service Unit,’ an intelligence agency, was replaced by ‘State Research Bureau’ (SRB).
Meanwhile, Obote, who had taken refuge in Tanzania, began to form an army of his own. Subsequently, he was joined by 20,000 Ugandan refugees. However, Amin learned about Obote’s plan and organized ‘killer squads’ who were ordered to hunt and murder Obote’s supporters.
The year 1972 witnessed mass massacre as large number of people belonging to the Acholi and Lango ethnic groups were brutally exterminated in the Jinja and Mbarara Barracks. Death toll rose astronomically and included people from various walks of life, including religious leaders, journalists, artists, senior bureaucrats, lawyers, students, intellectuals, criminal suspects, and foreign nationals.
The same year, he expelled about 80,000 Asians from the country. The businesses held by the Asians were subsequently taken up by his supporters. Furthermore, he severed all diplomatic ties with the United Kingdom and nationalized British owned businesses.
His decision to wage the ‘economic war’ proved to be futile as it further deteriorated the already-declining economic condition of the country. Mismanagement and lack of knowledge and experience were the main reasons for the breakdown of the once-successful businesses.
During his presidency, international relations with countries, such as Israel, Kenya, United States, and the United Kingdom soured, while he maintained great relations with Libya and the Soviet Union. Libya provided him with financial aid and Soviet Union became the largest arms supplier to Uganda.
In 1976, under his administration, an ‘Air France’ aircraft was hijacked and forced to land at ‘Entebbe Airport.’ Jewish and Israeli citizens were held as hostages. However, a rescue operation was soon launched by the Israeli government which resulted in the death of seven hijackers and 45 Ugandan soldiers.
By 1978, his brutality and callousness led to a significant fall in the number of supporters. Moreover, the declining economic and infrastructure condition caused a withdrawal of support from his army.
The revolt reached its peak when Bishop Luwum and Ministers Oryema and Oboth Ofumbi were killed. His supporters fled to Tanzania. Subsequently, he launched an invasion over Tanzanian territory, seizing control of the Kagera Region across the boundary.
Ugandan exiles, who had formed the ‘Uganda National Liberation Army,’ supported Tanzania. Aided by the ‘Uganda National Liberation Army,’ Tanzania launched an attack. Following an attack by Tanzania’s ‘People Defence Force,’ Amin’s Ugandan army retreated. The Tanzanian forces eventually gained control over the capital city of Kampala.
Foreseeing the defeat, he fled to Libya on April 11, 1979. The following year, he moved to Saudi Arabia and remained there for the rest of his life. He made an attempt to return to Uganda in 1989, but was forced to continue to lead a life in exile by Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko.