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Beyond Idi Amin: Causes and Drivers of Political Violence in Uganda, 1971-1979

LOWMAN, THOMAS,JAMES (2020) Beyond Idi Amin: Causes and Drivers of Political Violence in Uganda, 1971-1979. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (Tom Lowman - Completed Thesis)


This thesis is a study of the causes and drivers of political violence during Idi Amin’s eight years as President of Uganda between 1971 and 1979. It is concerned with the relationship between political violence and order, the causes and function of political violence in post-colonial Africa, and the production and patterns of political violence, with a specific focus on the role of localised agency and coercive institutions in this production. It also seeks to contribute to a new wave of literature on the state and political life in Uganda under Amin. During Amin’s rule political violence became widespread, and hundreds of thousands of Ugandans are estimated to have been killed. The following chapters draw on a range of primary materials including Ugandan government records, oral interviews, and the testimonies given to two investigations into human rights abuses in 1974 and 1986 that have made a reappraisal of the period possible.

This thesis argues that the power and reach of the Ugandan state under Amin has often been overestimated. Political violence in this period was the product of a weak state, struggling to successfully reproduce what Mitchell terms the ‘state effect’, in which the state comes to be regarded as separate to society, with a monopoly on deadly force. Uganda’s new rulers inherited the same constraints as their predecessors, and their approach to governance further undermined the functional capacity of the state apparatus. The spread of political violence that followed was driven by the vulnerability and insecurity of the new ruling clique, but it was also shaped by the localised agency and input of a wide range of state and non-state actors. Deteriorating and poorly controlled institutions, opportunistic crime and malicious denunciations, and the persistent failure of the new regime to impose and maintain consistent and disciplined practices within the repressive institutions through which they ruled all contributed to the apparently arbitrary and ‘chaotic’ pattern of violence for which the Amin era is typically remembered.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Uganda, Africa, Violence, Idi Amin, East Africa, Political Violence
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:23 Jan 2020 10:37

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