British support for Idi Amin, 1971

Richard Slater (High Commissioner, Uganda) to Alex Douglas-Home (Foreign Secretary), ‘The first six months of General Amin’s government’, 6 August 1971

‘Amin’s performance as leader of the government has been patchy… As a leader of the people..he has grown in stature and his personal popularity is an important asset…the real problems are tribalism, indiscipline in the army and general lawlessness…Amin has a genuine regard for Britain and is sincerely grateful for the help given him. One purpose of his visit to Britain was to say thank you in person. Despite some obvious deficiencies he remains a net asset from Britain’s point of view… Amin is described in our pre-coup personalities report as ‘not particularly pro-British’. I think this judgement should be revised….After studying him closely for six months, I have no doubt in my mind that he has a genuine affection and respect for the British army, which rubs off on to Britain as a whole… I am sure that he is sincerely grateful for what we have done and offered to do – early recognition, help over the funeral of the ex-Kabaka, military and police training, the development loan and so on… He certainly has a capacity for self-deception; and his resistance to unpalatable truths is aided by a slow-moving mind. This, combined with political immaturity and over-confidence, makes him something of a liability. But he is at present much more of an asset. So long as he stays in power, Ugandan reactions to controversial British policies in Africa will be containable and the influence of the moderates in the OAU will be strengthened. It remains therefore a British interest to see his regime consolidated, while bringing what influences we can to bear on his policies.’

National Archives, FCO 31/1017/ JEU 1/1

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