The Uganda-Tanzania War: The Ousting from Power of Idi Amin


In a war that begun in 1978 and ended the year after Tanzania directly backed and fought with Ugandan forces and successfully overthrew the Idi Amin regime.

Since Idi Amin seized power in 1971 through a military coup his regime took a dislike to Tanzania, as it offered sanctuary to the president Amin had ousted from power. In his savage attempts to wipe out the opposition Amin also forced 20,000 Ugandans to flee to Tanzania.

Once there they organized and got together and in an attempt to remove Amin from power they attempted to invade their home country. Amin blamed the Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere for given his enemies arms and support.

Uganda under Amin never had proper relations with Tanzania, and tensions eventually boiled over in the late 70s, the two countries went to war, by the end of that war the Amin regime was ousted from power in Uganda and he was driven into exile.

Lead up to War

In early October 1978 rebelling troops ambushed Amin at his presidential palace in the countrys capital Kampala, he managed to escape this attempt on his life by helicopter. This incident showed that Amins inner circle was significantly narrowing, and the level of the dissent and opposition to his rule was rising. Amin attempted to put down the growing rebellion with troops, targeting “mutineers”. However this rebellion quickly went across the border into Tanzania, where rebels joined forces with their Ugandan comrades in Tanzania.

Amin then declared war and sent his troops into the Kagera region of Tanzania to annex it, claiming that it belonged to Uganda.

The Ugandan-Tanzanian War

Nyerere ordered a counter attack, in a matter of weeks the Tanzanian Peoples Defence Force had risen from less than 40,000 troops to over 100,000. They were joined by several anti-Amin groups whom were in Tanzania after being exiled by Amins Uganda.

In response to the use of a Russian Katyusha missile launcher on Ugandan targets the then dictator of Libya Muammar Gaddafi sent 2,500 troops to aid Amin. These forces came with Russian made T-54 and T-55 tanks, as well as an assortment of armoured personnel carriers, artillery, MiG-21 jets and a Tu-22 Blinder supersonic bomber.

The Libyan forces were joined by a token force of Palestinian volunteers.

Allied with the Ugandan National Liberation Front (UNLF) the Tanzanian Army met Libyan forces head on in the decisive Battle of Lukuya. Having being abandoned by the Ugandan Army which had fled north the Libyan forces quickly fell into disarray and offered little resistance. The Tanzanians and the UNLF then proceeded to liberate Kampala bringing an end to Amins rule.

Amin himself fled to Libya temporarily and then to Saudi Arabia where he lived the rest of his life in exile until his death in 2003.