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Today in History: Idi Amin Overthrows President Milton Obote in Uganda

On January 25, 1971, Idi Amin Dada overthrew the government of Milton Obote, the man who led Uganda to independence from Britain in 1962 and became the country’s first elected leader. (Appolo Milton Obote: What Others Say 87.) Less than a month after the coup, on February 20, 1971, Idi Amin issued an announcement in the name of the “Officers and Men of the Uganda Army and Air Force” in the Uganda Gazette in which he elevated himself from the position of a major-general to a full general and suspended elections “for at least five years,” stating:

In view of the very bad state of affairs left behind by the last regime we fully appreciate that our Government led by His Excellency Major-General Idi Amin Dada is faced with a great task. Public life must be cleaned up and the economy must be put on a sound basis. In addition the people of Uganda have to be educated to think in terms of Uganda as a whole and to love and respect one another in the spirit of brotherhood, unity and equality. We have therefore decided that our Government as led by his Excellency Major-General Idi-Amin Dada must be in power for at least five years. We believe that as the end of such a period national elections could be organised and held in a period of tranquility and mutual respect. From messages received by us we know that this proposal has the support of the great majority of Ugandans…. In Addition, due to the size of the army he is now heading, and his military responsibilities, we hereby appoint him full General.  (Declaration by the Officers and Men of the Uganda Army and Air Force made to the Nation on the 20th February, 1971, LXIV (8) THE UGANDA GAZETTE (Feb. 26, 1971).)

Amin’s tenure, which lasted eight years (1971-1979), was marked with brutality, with hundreds of thousands of civilians killed and tens of thousands of Indians and Pakistanis expelled from Uganda because Amin believed they were exploiting the economy. Despite the above statement, no elections were held. Ironically, one of the stated reasons for the coup was “[t]he failure of the political authorities to organize any elections for the last eight years whereby the people’s free will could be expressed.” (Statement to the Nation by the Uganda Army, § 7, LXIV (5) THE UGANDA GAZETTE (Feb. 5, 1971.).)

NSC, Congressional – JFK and Milten Obote (Uganda) (Warren K. Leffler, photographer, Oct. 22, 1962). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.41042.

Amin was part of a trend during Uganda’s independence era of people overthrowing the government or using undemocratic means of holding onto power. Obote himself suspended the Constitution after Uganda’s independence, arbitrarily detained his opponents, and refused to have elections. Having toppled Obote, Amin was subsequently overthrown in April 1979 by Ugandan rebels and forces from neighboring Tanzania, and Yusufu K. Lule was installed as president. Only 68 days into his presidency, Lule was removed from office in a coup led by the National Consultative Council for “allegedly making wide ranging appointments in government without consulting them.” In June 1979, Godfrey Binaisa was installed as President. His tenure only lasted eleven months after which he was removed “by a military clique that included Museveni [Uganda’s incumbent president].” Following Binaisa’s fall, the country was briefly placed under the control of a military commission and then the Presidential Commission of Uganda, both of which were led by Paulo Muwanga who served as the country’s de facto president until the elections of December 1980.

The 1980 election saw the return of Obote to the presidency. The parties that competed in the 1980 elections included the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) (led by Obote), the Democratic Party (DP) (led by Paul Ssemogerere), and the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) (led by Yoweri Museveni). (Omongole R. Anguria, supra at 93.) The UPC and DP won 74 and 51 seats respectively, while the UPM, which fielded 82 candidates, only won 1 seat.  Museveni lost his own contest to a DP candidate. (Keneth Ingham, Obote: A Political Biography 174 (1994).) Obote assumed the presidency and Museveni, citing election-rigging by Obote, launched a civil war in 1981. In 1985, General Tito Okell removed Obote and assumed power. In January 1986, Museveni overthrew Okell and became President.

Museveni, who is now 73 years old, remains in office. Having been re-elected in 2016, his current term ends in 2021. However, a recent amendment to the Constitution removed a requirement (section 102) that presidential candidates be under the age of 75, thereby allowing him to extend his rule beyond that time. The amendment also reinstituted a two-term cap on presidents (section 105), meaning that Museveni’s rule will come to an end by 2031 (unless, of course, the Constitution is changed again to eliminate the term limit, as happened in 2005).

Today in History: Resignation of Vice President John C. Calhoun

On this day in 1832, John C. Calhoun submitted his resignation as the seventh Vice President of the United States.  First elected to the House of Representatives in 1810, he would spend almost all of the remainder of his life serving in either the executive or legislative branches.  He had a towering intellect, an overweening ambition, and a strong sense […]

Bringing Congress to the Classroom with a new Educational Resources Page

This is a guest post by Laura Read Lee, a Junior Fellow in the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress. In this post, Laura describes the new page that she designed, “Bringing Congress to the Classroom.” The Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress has recently launched a new webpage […]

Loving v. Virginia: “Banished” for Love

“Absence from those we love is self from self–a deadly banishment.”–William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream At the Library On May 3, 2017, in observance of the approaching 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the Library of Congress hosted a discussion on this famous interracial-marriage case.  The panel included Patricia Hruby Powell and Shadra Strickland, […]

190th Anniversary of the Constitution of the Free State of Coahuila and Texas

The following is a joint collaboration with Janice Hyde, Assistant Law Librarian for Collections. March is a very important month for Texas.  March is Texas History Month!  Every year, on March 2, Texas celebrates the anniversary of its independence. And it’s no surprise that this anniversary aligns with the festivities set out for Texas Public […]

Records & Research on the House of Representatives History, Art & Archives Website

The following is a guest post by Alison M. Trulock, an archival specialist in the Office of Art and Archives within the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. In October 2016, the Clerk’s Office of the U.S. House of Representatives launched Records Search on the History, Art & Archives website. The website is a […]

New Law Library Reports Cover Access to Encrypted Communications and Intelligence Gathering

More and more internet traffic is encrypted. Encryption is a method of protecting electronic information by converting it into an unintelligible form (encoding) so that it can only be decoded with a key. Google stated in its latest transparency report that 85% of requests from around the world to Google’s servers used encrypted connections in […]

New Chinese Rule Legalizing Uber

As described in previous blog posts authored by Jenny and Tariq, the rapid expansion of Uber around the world has presented new challenges to regulators in foreign countries. It is interesting to note that China recently issued a departmental rule regulating “online taxi-booking services.” Effective November 1, 2016, the Interim Administrative Measures for the Business of Online […]