The Commonwealth summit which ended in London recently was the first international meeting to come out openly and denounce Idi Amin’s regime. Despite the deaths of more than 300,000 Ugandans even the Organisation of African Unity and the United Nations have kept official silence on Uganda’s abuse of human rights.

The summit’s final communiqué though strongly worded, did not mention the Ugandan leader by name. In a carefully worded statement the conference said: “Cognisant of the accumulated evidence of sustained disregard for the sanctity of life and of massive violation of basic human rights in Uganda, it was the overwhelming view of Commonwealth leaders that these excesses were so grave as to warrant the world’s concern and to evoke condemnation by heads of government in strong unequivocal terms.”

A sharp clash of views on how to react to Amin’s record of atrocities prevented the heads of government winding up the main business at the end of the final session, which run one-and-a-half hours behind schedule.
As the leaders began their closed-door meeting on human rights, with only heads of delegations present, it soon became obvious that the demands to have Amin roundly condemned in the final conference communiqué were unacceptable to an influential minority of African countries – notably Nigeria, Mauritius, Sierra Leone and Malawi.

They were joined by India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Malta and Cyprus in arguing that an attack on Amin in his absence was not proper. But Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Ghana and Gambia were joined by Jamaica, Guyana, Bahamas, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Canada in demanding that Amin should be censored by the Commonwealth.

While arguments and counter-arguments about Amin were going on in and outside Lancaster House, the Ugandan president kept his bluff alive by insisting that he intended to visit London for the conference. In Kampala he hid in one of his houses while his chair in the London conference remained empty. His vice president Mustafa Adrisi ordered Radio Uganda to announce in every news item that he was on his way to London. The whole of Europe was plunged into hysteria.

The British press ignored the more sensible leaders already in London and carried Amin’s story. To them Big Daddy is good copy.
source: From the DRUM magazine: July 1977