Britain thought Idi Amin 'a splendid man'

By Associated Press, 6/23/2000 12:04

LONDON (AP) Before he became a world-renowned despot, British diplomats
in Uganda regarded Idi Amin as a splendid fellow but not very bright, newly
released documents reveal.

Documents released by the government to the Public Record Office on
Thursday contain assessments of Amin from the 1960s, when he was a
military officer.

''Amin is a splendid man by any standards and is held in great respect and
affection by his British colleagues,'' wrote an official identified as O.G.
Griffith.

''He is tough and fearless and in the judgment of everybody ... completely
reliable. Against this he is not very bright and will probably find difficulty in
dealing with the administrative side of command.''

Another official added: ''Idi Amin is a splendid type and a good (rugby)
player ... but ... virtually bone from the neck up, and needs things explained
in words of one letter.''

Amin came to power in a military coup in 1971. Thousands of people died
and Uganda's Asian community was expelled during his eight-year reign.

Other British documents released Thursday revealed that in the 1950s, the
MI6 spy agency responsible for foreign intelligence, destroyed key
documents relating to the ''Zinoviev letter'' scandal of the 1920s.

The letter, purportedly written to the British Communist Party by Grigori
Zinoviev, head of the Soviet Union's international propaganda section, was
leaked to the press on the eve of the 1924 general election.

The scandal is credited with bringing down the Labor Party government of
Ramsay MacDonald, the first western government to enter into treaty
negotiations with the Soviet regime.

An official government investigation last year concluded that the letter was
probably forged by white Russians, the defeated anti-communist officers and
other officials in exile, and circulated by British intelligence officers
sympathetic to the Conservative Party.