It is over 20 years since Idi Amin Dada was deposed from office as president of Uganda. Except for one or two mentions, notably at the time of his passing in 2003, this dictator, who in the final years of his regime, came to be known as the wildest president in Africa, has in recent years largely been cast to the dustbin of history.
With his new book, Idi Amin: Lion of Africa, Manzoor Moghal offers a reappraisal of Idi Amin’s time in office. While this is not an outright defence of Amin’s rule, it is, nonetheless, an attempt to recast the man, and offer a more positive narrative of his politics.
Moghal tells the story of Amin’s rise and fall but, in a slightly new way — different from what you have read in Henry Kyemba’s A State of Blood or the 1977 indictment by Time — not accusatory.
Like others before him, Moghal writes about the atrocities of the Idi Amin regime. However, he subtly endeavors to reinterpret the politics of the time, primarily through re-examining the motivation behind Amin’s actions and theatrics. He portrays Amin as a leader who pursued his intentions insidiously, but with well timed swiftness and accuracy, a man capable of impeccable tact and shocking brutality.
And while Moghal makes no apologies for Amin’s crimes, he implicitly argues that the majority of stories about Amin are told without context, making it difficult to understand the man and his actions.
As a local leader and Muslim elder at the time, Moghal came to work closely with Amin, especially in the early 1970s, just before and after the latter took power. According to Moghal, Amin was a man who would take his chances, and who demonstrated unbeatable courage and strength.
In short, while Time magazine described Amin as the “wild man of Africa”, calling him lethal and deadly, Manzool Moghal, apparently begs to differ. In Idi Amin: Lion of Africa, he wants readers to see a different side of Amin. This, no doubt, explains the book title.