Idi Amin/Forrest Whitaker: When a boxer becomes a dictator

Politics is like boxing you try to knock out your opponents. Idi Amin

Forrest Whitaker has a shot at winning a Best Actor Oscar at the Academy Awards this year for his scintillating portrayal of the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the film The Last King of Scotland. Amin, who died in exile at the age of 80 in Saudi Arabia in 2003, was a classic African despot, a charismatic monster. Whitaker has made a career out of finding the soft spot in the hardest of men in the harshest conditions and does nothing less for the hellish ogre Idi Amin.

Idi Amin was a piece of work. Although African to the bone, he joined the British Colonial Army in 1946 as a member of the King’s African Rifles. He fought in Kenya and Somalia and was awarded the rank of Army sergeant in 1953. When Uganda gained independence from Britain in 1962, Amin joined the Ugandan Army. Four years later, he was Commander of the Armed Forces.

In 1971, Amin staged a successful military coup and ousted Uganda’s president, Milton Obote, whereupon Amin declared himself “His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.” (And you thought you took yourself seriously.) Despite the flowery designation, the paternalistic Amin wanted everyone to call him Big Daddy, but the poor citizens of his country called him the Butcher of Uganda.

According to Amnesty International, up to a half million Ugandans were murdered during Amin’s rule. Amin once said Hitler was right to burn six million Jews. There are even reports of Amin’s cannibalism.

Unlike Forrest Whitaker’s performance, the film “The Last King of Scotland” is flawed. Most significantly, the script is weak; several potentially fascinating subplots come and go without so much as a whimper. But in that weak script mention is made, in passing, that Idi Amin a killing cousin of Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Allende, choose your strongman, ad nauseum, you name it was also once a boxing champion.

Amin was Uganda’s light heavyweight champion between 1951 and 1960, and it turns out he was as crazy about boxing as he was crazy about everything else. According to The Monitor, the All Africa Boxing Championships were held in Kampala in 1974 and Amin was his usual crazy self. He declared himself the “Sporting President,” before replacing the longtime manager of the boxing team with you guessed it Idi Amin.

At the time of his new appointment, Amin boasted to two members of the Scottish Nationalists Party (Amin had a thing for men in kilts) that he never lost a fight to a European.

But that’s a big lie.

Amin lost all the eight fights he had against five Europeans, reports The Monitor, McCullough, De Vandre, Peach, Giani Sera (an Italian). The fifth is not given because Amin lost to him during a training qualifier contest for the 1958 Commonwealth games in Edinburgh.