He was called “the butcher”, “the cannibal”, “the fury”. He was Idi Oumé Amin Dada, a military general who took the power in Uganda in 1971 and became one of the most cruel dictators in Africa. In 8 years he carried out the worst war crimes and violent actions against civilians ever recorded in Uganda. Besides this terrible fame, today his life, the places where he lived are tourist attractions. Especially the beautiful palace where he used to torture his prisoners. This palace, though, used to be the royal palace of ancient Ugandese kings. It is in Mengo quarter, at Kampala.
About Amin Dada
Amin Dada never allowed anyone to write about his life, so today we have very few news about him. He was probably born in 1924 or 1925, in a small town called Koboko. Some say he was educated as an islamic at the Muslim school of his hometown, others say he attended a Christian Mission school. What we know for sure is he entered the British Colonial Army in 1947 and was a soldier in Kenya for a long time.
He fought many battles and became an officer long before coming back home to Uganda, in the 1950s. As a general he helped a lot during the war for the independence and became a young general in the 1960s. In 1971, with the help of many foreing nations – including Israel – he succeeded in replacing prime minister Obote and became the most important man in Uganda. He took the full power, abolished the democratic elections and tried to invade his neighbour nations (Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania).
Dada started persecutions against his political enemies, non-african people and poor people with the same cruel behaviour. In 1979 the same nations that had helped him to take the power fought against him. He was forced to exile in Saudi Arabia where he died in 2003.
Amin Dada’s Palace
The palace where Amin Dada lived and ruled is Kabaka’s Palace, in Mengo, Kampala. This palace was built in 1885 by king Daniel Mwanga 11 of the Buganda tribe, who ruled the Country before the arrival of the Europeans. The architecture, though, looks very much as an European royal palace because the king loved the western culture. It consists of two buildings (the second added in 1922) and four main gates, each one with a specific rule for the daily life of king and queen.
Not far from the second palace, Amin Dada built an underground barrack that had the purpose of being used as a military place. At the beginning, it was planned for the defence of the palaces. But, during Dada’s personal war against his many enemies, it became a torture chamber.
Five cells and a large room were the main structure of this building. Every single cell could not accomodate more than 10 people but sometimes 100 prisoners were forced to stay there, all together, with no windows. The large room was the place for the awful tortures. Water pools and electric wires were the main security system against prisoners’ escape. If they tried to do it, they would have died electrocuted. Over 200,000 people died in this building. Modern day tours aim to let tourist know this story and never forget.
More information about Amin Dada’s Palace
Kabaka’s Palace is in the very heart of the capital city of Uganda, Kampala. It is on Lubiri Ring Road, and easy to reach from every part of the city. It is 40 km away from the International Airport of Entebbe and 11 km away from Lake Victoria. Many local tour operator organize specific guided tours to Amin Dada’s torture chamber. The palace is open everyday, from 8am to 5pm. The ticket should be circa 10 Shillings.