Mustafa Adrisi

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Mustafa Adrisi
3rd Vice President of Uganda
In office
January 1977 – 1979
PresidentIdi Amin
Preceded byJohn Babiiha
Succeeded byPaulo Muwanga
Minister of Defence of Uganda
In office
? – 8 May 1978
PresidentIdi Amin
Minister of Internal Affairs of Uganda
In office
16 February 1977 – 8 May 1978
PresidentIdi Amin
Preceded byCharles Oboth Ofumbi
Uganda Army Chief of Staff
In office
1974 – January 1977
PresidentIdi Amin
Preceded byHussein Marella (acting)
Charles Arube (de jure)
Succeeded byIsaac Lumago
Personal details
Born1922 (1922)
Died28 July 2013(2013-07-28) (aged 90–91)
Kampala, Uganda
RelationsIdi Amin
Nickname"Mr. Foreign Exchange"
Military service
Allegiance British Empire
Branch/serviceKing's African Rifles
Uganda Army
Uganda National Rescue Front
Years of service1951–1987
CommandsMilitary Police Force
Uganda Army

Mustafa Adrisi Abataki (c. 1922 – 28 July 2013) was a Ugandan military officer who served as the third vice president of Uganda from 1977 to 1979 and was one of President Idi Amin's closest associates. In 1978, after Adrisi was injured in a suspicious auto accident, troops loyal to him mutinied. Amin sent troops against the mutineers, some of whom had fled across the Tanzanian border, possibly contributing to the Uganda–Tanzania War.[1] As the Ugandan war effort collapsed, Adrisi fled to Sudan where he claimed to retain the post of Vice President. He became briefly involved in the rebel activities of the Uganda National Rescue Front before returning from exile in 1987. He struggled with health problems in his later life and died in 2013.

Early life[edit]

Mustafa Adrisi was born into the Picara clan of the Aringa ethnic group in Yumbe District, Uganda.[2][a] He enrolled in the Lodonga Demonstration Primary School in Lodonga. After completing the fourth grade, the Catholic missionaries in charge of the school attempted to convert him from Islam to Christianity and gave him the Christian name Christopher. Adrisi instead dropped out and never completed his education.[4] As a result of this, he was never fully literate.[2]

Adrisi practiced polygamy and, over the course of his life, married eight women and fathered multiple children, though by the time of his death he had lost seven of his wives to death or divorce.[4]

Military career[edit]

In 1951 Adrisi was drafted into the King's African Rifles. He was trained in Nanyuki, Kenya Colony.[5] During his early years of military service, Adrisi acquired property in Keri, Koboko District, Uganda.[4] In 1952 he was promoted to the rank of lance corporal. After additional training and participating in the suppression of the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya, he was promoted to corporal. After assuming the rank of sergeant major, he enrolled in the police cadet school in Entebbe, Uganda. While on leave he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.[5] On 1 January 1967 the Ugandan government, in an attempt to instill discipline in the Uganda Army, created the Military Police Force and gave command of the unit to Adrisi and a second lieutenant.[6] After receiving training from the Israelis, he was made captain. Over the next few years he served as second-in command of the Mbarara barracks and the Mbuya army headquarters, and served as a military police instructor[5] as well as officer commanding the Malire Regiment.[7]

In 1971, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.[5] That year, Colonel Idi Amin launched a coup d'état and became President of Uganda. Adrisi was Amin's uncle[8] and brother-in-law.[3] Two years later he was given command of the army brigade based in Mbale.[5] Adrisi was made Uganda Army chief of staff as a concession to the increasingly disgruntled Lugbara troops who had revolted during the Arube uprising in March 1974.[9] In 1975 Adrisi was made general and commander of the army.[5] He was later made Minister of Defence.[10] Adrisi also became infamous for his extreme corruption, using his positions to siphon off large amounts of government money for himself. In this way, he earned the nickname "Mr. Foreign Exchange".[11]

Vice President of Uganda[edit]

In January 1977 President Amin removed Adrisi from his post as army chief of staff and appointed him Vice President of Uganda.[10][12] Amin had ruled Uganda without a vice president for six years, and his decision to give Adrisi the job probably stemmed from his wish to appease soldiers who wanted the dismissal of Brigadier Hussein Marella, an ally of Amin who had killed a prominent Lugbara officer.[13] Adrisi was instructed to resign from his post as Minister of Defence, but declined to do so.[14] That year a split in the Uganda Army developed between supporters of Amin and soldiers loyal to Adrisi, who held significant power in the government and wanted to purge foreigners, particularly Sudanese, from the military.[3] Adrisi felt that foreigners were not dependent enough on the regime to support it, and would at their convenience flee back to their lands of origin. He thought that it would be best if the Uganda Army was made up of northern Ugandans who had a larger stake in fighting for it. The resulting tension in the army was further exacerbated when Adrisi got in a shootout with Colonel Taban Lupayi, the head of the marines.[8] Despite threatening civilians earlier in his career, Adrisi was increasingly viewed by segments of the army and general populace as a proponent of a return to law and order, as he had freed several civilian detainees and publicly condemned extra-judicial killings.[15] He later testified that Amin had summoned him four times to accuse him of plotting a coup, which he repeatedly denied.[13] According to journalist George Ivan Smith, Adrisi was also involved in a purge of Langi and Acholi in 1977, during which a large number of civilians were murdered in northern Uganda.[16] By the end of the year he also held the post of Minister of Internal Affairs,[17] having taken over the job after the death of the previous incumbent, Charles Oboth Ofumbi.[18]

On the morning of 19 April 1978 while traveling to a police station in Jinja,[19] Adris's car was involved in an accident in Mbalala.[4] A stationed wagon collided with his vehicle from the front, and then his escort vehicle rear-ended his vehicle. A shootout between Adrisi's bodyguards and the security personnel in the escort vehicle ensued, and several people were killed. Adrisi was then flown to Cairo for treatment of head injuries and multiple fractures in his leg.[19] While he was there, Amin declared on 8 May that he was stripping him of his positions as Minister of Defence and Minister of Internal Affairs and denounced him for retiring senior prison officials without his knowledge.[20][21] Amin also demoted or dismissed numerous government officials, most of whom had been supportive of Adrisi.[8] Unrest grew in the military as a result of the incident, since many of Adrisi's followers believed that the car accident was a failed assassination attempt orchestrated by Amin.[14] Adrisi himself never accused Amin of being behind the accident.[22] After about a month Adrisi returned to Uganda and re-assumed his post as vice president.[20][b] Advised that he should take time to recuperate, he retired to his home in Keri.[4]

In 1979 Tanzanian forces and the Uganda National Liberation Front invaded Uganda and occupied the country. When they entered the town of Koboko, the seat of the eponymous district, Adrisi fled to Kaya, Sudan with over 2,000 cattle.[24] His three-house home was consequently destroyed with dynamite by the Tanzanian-led forces.[25] He, his family, and their entourage initially found refuge in Yei.[26] The Sudanese government later moved him to the village of Lutaya, where many former officials of Amin's regime were housed.[4] While in exile in Sudan, Adrisi still claimed to be Vice President of Uganda.[24]

Later life[edit]

In 1980 Adrisi, Moses Ali, and several other military officers of Amin's extant regime formed the Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF), a rebel group to retake control of Uganda. The following year Ali began attacking Uganda, and the government requested that Sudanese authorities halt Adrisi's and his colleagues' activities. The Sudanese government subsequently arrested them and took them to Juba for questioning. They were released three weeks later.[4]

Following Yoweri Museveni's assumption of the Ugandan Presidency, Adrisi requested that he be repatriated to Uganda. He was scheduled to return in January 1987, but threats posed by members of the UNRF who wanted to continue the insurgency delayed his return until April. Adrisi arrived in Uganda impoverished, and was given a government-owned house in Arua District. The Ugandan government later established a commission to investigate human rights abuses committed during Amin's regime. Adrisi testified against his former colleagues. The commission did not find any conclusive evidence that Adrisi was involved in any atrocities during his service in the regime.[4]

After falling ill in 2008, the Ugandan government flew Adrisi to Mulago Hospital in Kampala. He briefly fell into a coma, but after recovering and being discharged, the government permanently located him to another house in Kampala so it could monitor his health. He died at Mulago Hospital on 28 July 2013 due to complications from a broken leg, diabetes, and hypertension.[4] He was buried in a state funeral in Keri on 1 August.[27]


  1. ^ Journalists Tony Avirgan and Martha Honey described Adrisi as Lugbara.[3]
  2. ^ According to journalist Faustin Mugabe, Adrisi was still being treated at an Egyptian military hospital (or had returned there) when he was visited there by Amin in October 1978. Mugabe based this account on stories published by the Voice of Uganda, the Ugandan state newspaper, which included a photo of Amin and Adrisi together in said hospital.[23]


  1. ^ Military rule under Amin, Library of Congress Country Studies: Uganda Archived July 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b Lowman 2020, p. 51.
  3. ^ a b c Avirgan & Honey 1983, p. 49.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Walubiri, Moses; Drasimaku, Richard (14 May 2014). "Mustafa Adrisi: Life during and after exile". New Vision. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Butagira, Tabu (29 July 2013). "Mustafa Adrisi: The man who defied Amin to save students". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  6. ^ Omara-Otunnu 1987, p. 79.
  7. ^ "Lt. Col. Ogole Memorium: Country; Justice, Unity And Peace". Black Star News. 10 May 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  8. ^ a b c Decalo 2019, The Collapse of a Dictator.
  9. ^ Lowman 2020, p. 124.
  10. ^ a b "Uganda : Vice-President Appointed". Africa Research Bulletin. January 1977. p. 4284.
  11. ^ Rice 2009, p. 269.
  12. ^ "Amin names No. 2 six years after coup". The Vancouver Sun. Reuters. 26 January 1977. p. 18. Retrieved 15 December 2019.
  13. ^ a b Lowman 2020, p. 173.
  14. ^ a b "Uganda : Idi Amin cracks down on ministers". To the Point International. Vol. 5. 1978. p. 26.
  15. ^ Lowman 2020, p. 174.
  16. ^ Smith 1980, p. 186.
  17. ^ Legum 1979, p. B-448.
  18. ^ Singh 2012, p. 70.
  19. ^ a b Singh 2012, p. 88.
  20. ^ a b Avirgan & Honey 1983, pp. 49–50.
  21. ^ "Ministerial Appointment and Military Promotions in Uganda". Summary of World Broadcasts: Non-Arab Africa. 8 May 1978.
  22. ^ "How 'unity' died in Uganda". The Independent (Kampala). 8 April 2019. Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  23. ^ Faustin, Mugabe (31 October 2021). "The 1978 war that pushed Idi Amin out of presidency". Daily Monitor. Archived from the original on 31 October 2021. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  24. ^ a b Reid 2017, p. 71.
  25. ^ Rice 2009, p. 2694.
  26. ^ Wren, Christopher S. (13 June 1979). "Ugandan Refugees Finding A Haven in Southern Sudan". The New York Times. p. 2. Retrieved 21 December 2019.
  27. ^ Drasimaku, Richard (1 August 2013). "Thousands bury Gen. Adrisi". New Vision. Retrieved 26 November 2019.

Works cited[edit]