1971 Ugandan coup d'état

1971 Ugandan coup d'état
Part of the Cold War
Date25 January 1971
Location Uganda
Result Overthrow of Milton Obote
Establishment of regime of Idi Amin
Ugandan Government Ugandan Military
Supported by:
 United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Milton Obote Idi Amin
5700 Soldiers
5500 Police[1]

The 1971 Ugandan coup d'état was a military coup d'état executed by the Ugandan military, led by general Idi Amin, against the government of President Milton Obote on January 25, 1971. The seizure of power took place while Obote was abroad attending the Commonwealth Heads of State conference in Singapore.[2] Amin was afraid that Obote might dismiss him.

The 1971 coup is often cited as an example of "class action by the military", wherein the Ugandan armed forces acted against "an increasingly socialist régime whose equalitarian domestic politics posed more and more of a threat to the military's economic privileges".[3]


A rift had developed between Amin and Obote, exacerbated by the support Amin had built within the army by recruiting from the West Nile region, his involvement in operations to support the rebellion in southern Sudan and an attempt on Obote's life in 1969. In October 1970, Obote took overall control of the armed forces, reducing Amin from his position of commander in chief of all the armed forces to that of commander in chief of the army.[1]


Having learned that Obote was planning to arrest him for misappropriating army funds, Amin launched a coup on 25 January 1971, while Obote was attending a Commonwealth summit meeting in Singapore. Ugandan troops loyal to Armin sealed off Entebbe International Airport to prevent Obote's return, and tanks and soldiers patrolled the streets of Kampala and Entebbe. Here, some soldiers loyal to President Obote and members of the General Service Unit resisted the coup forces while some fighting also took place at the Kampala police college.[1] Fierce fighting was reported in Jinja, about 50 miles from Kampala. Obote's residence was surrounded and major roads were blocked. A nighttime curfew was imposed by the coup forces.[4] At 4:30pm it was announced that the Army and the police under Armin's leadership had control of the entire country.[1]

Uganda radio broadcasts accused the Obote government of corruption and said the army believed Obote's policies result in violence and accused him of giving preferential treatment to certain regions of the country. The broadcast was reportedly met with cheering crowds in the capital.[4]

Portrayal in media

  • The film Rise and Fall of Idi Amin opens with the coup occurring while Dr. Michael Oloya (Thomas Baptiste) is performing surgery, and is portrayed as violent. Despite the gunfire happening outside, Oloya continues the operation, saying, "This patient will not be his first casualty!" Immediately afterward, Amin (Joseph Olita) is shown in a military parade, cheered on by the Ugandan people. British and French diplomats show their open support for him, stating there is "more than enough socialist nonsense running around the rest of the world."
  • In the film Last King of Scotland, the coup is portrayed as popular, with Amin as being "for the people". The coup is supported by the British. Opponents of Amin are described as being "Obote's men"

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "General Idi Amin overthrows Ugandan government". British Council. 2 February 1971. Archived from the original on 25 February 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  2. Hebditch, David; Ken Connor (2005). How to Stage a Military Coup: From Planning to Execution. London: Greenhill Books. p. 128. ISBN 1-85367-640-3.
  3. Lofchie, Michael F. (May 1972). "The Uganda Coup—Class Action by the Military". The Journal of Modern African Studies. 10 (1): 19–35. doi:10.1017/S0022278X00022072. JSTOR 159819.
  4. 1 2 "1971: Idi Amin ousts Uganda president". BBC. 1971. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
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