Ali Fadhul

Last updated
Ali Fadhul
Uganda Army Chief of Staff
In office
March 1979 April 1979
President Idi Amin
Preceded by Yusuf Gowon
Succeeded byDe jure none; de facto David Oyite-Ojok as UNLA chief of staff
Minister for Provincial Administration
In office
? 1979
PresidentIdi Amin
Personal details
BornEastern Uganda
Military service
AllegianceFlag of Uganda.svg  Uganda
Branch/service Uganda Army (UA)
Years of service?–1979
Rank Brigadier

Ali Fadhul is a retired Ugandan military officer and convicted criminal who served as governor, minister and chief of staff during the dictatorship of President Idi Amin. In course of his career, he also commanded the Simba Battalion of the Uganda Army (UA). He was one of Amin's last loyal followers during the Uganda–Tanzania War of 1978–1979. Following the conflict, Fadhul was arrested by the new Ugandan government, and convicted of murder. Sentenced to death, he spent 22 years in prison until he was pardoned by President Yoweri Museveni in 2009.



Military and political career

Waris Ali Fadhul [1] or Ali Waris Fadhul [2] [lower-alpha 1] was an ethnic Busoga from eastern Uganda, although he was often described as a "Sudanese" and spoke Nubian. [4] He joined the Uganda Army at some point during the presidency of Milton Obote. [5] He took part in the 1971 Ugandan coup d'état that resulted in Obote's overthrow and initiated Idi Amin's presidency. [6] Thereafter, he rose in the ranks. Described by researcher Andrew Rice as "an Amin confidante and notorious brute", [7] Fadhul was granted command of the Uganda Army's Simba Battalion [8] and tasked with eliminating soldiers loyal to the deposed President Obote. He consequently carried out several massacres of suspected dissident troops at the Simba barracks of Mbarara. [7] In addition, he was possibly connected to the deaths of journalist Nicholas Stroh and Makerere University lecturer Robert Siedle. [9] Amin promoted him to Lieutenant Colonel for his role in the purges of July 1971. [10]

He was the head of the Simba Battalion from 1971 to 1974, [8] although he was often absent from the unit. As a confidant of Amin, Fadhul repeatedly spent his time in Kampala to assist the President; his second-in-command Yusuf Gowon was thus responsible for the battalion's day-to-day operations. [11] Early in the morning of 17 September 1972, Fadhul was informed of armed clashes at the Ugandan-Tanzanian border. He promptly took off for the border in a Peugeot sedan. As he was speeding toward the border, Fadhul ran into FRONASA rebels under the command of Yoweri Museveni. [12] The rebels did not recognize him, allowing Fadhul to drive past them and get to the next telephone. From there, he informed Amin [13] and the Simba Battalion of the rebel invasion. Afterwards, he went into hiding for a few days, only reemerging after the insurgents had been repelled by his subordinate Yusuf Gowon. [12] After the fighting, he took part in purges of suspected rebels as well as rebel sympathizers in and around Mbarara, [14] mostly hunting insurgents in the countryside while leaving Mbarara town to Gowon. [15] [16] Fadhul was later accused of having ordered the murder of Tibayungwa, [lower-alpha 2] the former administrative secretary of Ankole, during this time. [17] Tibayungwa was believed to have previously helped Museveni escape Uganda after the 1971 coup; [8] [18] the ex-official was bayonetted to death. [19]

In the next years, Fadhul rose to governor in the northern (Acholi and Lango districts) and the western provinces (Ankole and Tooro districts). [18] As Governor of Northern Province, Fadhul was "one of the most prominent figures in the regime" according to researcher Thomas Lowman. [10] In this position, he mostly acted as an absentee official, often staying in the capital Kampala and only involving himself in northern affairs by exhorting increases in cotton production, exploiting local smugglers and businesses, and suppressing rebel activity. He occasionally had no idea about the activities of lower-ranking officials in his territories. [20] He was eventually appointed Minister for Provincial Administration. [3] [17] According to lower-ranking Ugandan smugglers, Fadhul exploited his military and government positions to directly participate in smuggling operations and illegally amass a fortune, while publicly condemning smugglers as "economic criminals" harming the country. [21]

By the Uganda–Tanzania War of 1978–1979, he had been promoted to Brigadier. In January 1979, he was featured in Ugandan radio propaganda: In his capacity as Minister for Provincial Administration, he had reportedly met Buganda elders during an official meeting with Amin, telling them how much the President respected them. In addition, Fadhul falsely claimed that the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation had not insulted foreign heads of state as Radio Tanzania had done, showcasing that Uganda was more dignified than its enemy. [1] After the Tanzania People's Defence Force and allied rebel forces defeated the Uganda Army in a series of battles, President Amin dismissed Chief of Staff Gowon in March 1979. Fadhul was appointed as his successor. In addition, he became part of a four‐member war planning committee that oversaw the Ugandan preparations for the defense of Kampala. [3] Amin's regime completely collapsed and Kampala was captured by Tanzanian-led forces in April 1979. [22] A new Ugandan government was consequently installed. [23] Fadhul was captured alongside Abdullah Nasur during or after the Battle of Bombo, and initially detained. [24] The new government subsequently froze the financial assets of over 1,000 Ugandan Nubians, including Fadhul's, before seizing the money and placing it in government accounts. [25] Fadhul's home was plundered during the war. [26]

Later life

Released from captivity at some point after the war, Fadhul was arrested in his home in Bulumagi in 1986 [26] or 1987 [17] on charges that he had been involved in the murder of Tibayungwa. [lower-alpha 3] Though he maintained his innocence during his trial at the High Court in Mbarara, he was convicted and sentenced to death in 1989. [17] [26] Along with a leader of Amin's death squads, Kassim Obura, Fadhul was one of very few Amin followers who were ever actually convicted for crimes committed in the 1971–79 era. [19] Placed on the death row at Luzira Upper Prison, he remained in prison for 22 years. [17] The Supreme Court of Uganda turned down his appeal against the conviction and death sentence in 1993. [18]

In 2009, he was pardoned by President Yoweri Museveni, and released. By this time, he suffered from diabetes, ulcers and skin cancer [17] [26] and no longer had a home, as his old house in Bulumagi had been abandoned and vandalised during his time in prison. [17] One house which had formerly belonged to him was now rented to the Weston College School-Makerere in Mukono; the college consequently allowed him to temporarily sleep in one of their offices. He later relocated to the home of his eldest wife, Hajjati Segiya Nako, in Bulumagi. Several locals and family members celebrated his release. [26] By 2010, he could no longer sit, eat or walk on his own, and had to receive regular treatments by Nsambya Hospital and doctors hired by his family to stay alive. [18]

Personal life

Fadhul is married, and has at least three children, namely Abubaker Ali Fadhul, Asha Ali, [26] and Faisal Fadhul. [18] He is a polyglot, and speaks Nubian. [4]


  1. He was named "Walls Ali Fadhul" by The New York Times reporter John Daimon. [3]
  2. Francis Tibayungwa according to the New Vision, [8] Xavier Tibayungwa according to the Uganda Radio Network. [17]
  3. According to New Vision reporter Isaac Baligema, Fadhul was arrested "for crimes ranging from kidnap to murder" in 1980. [8]

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  1. 1 2 "Bagandan Support". Translations on Sub-Saharan Africa (2070). United States Joint Publications Research Service. 1979.
  2. Lowman 2020, pp. 46–47.
  3. 1 2 3 John Daimon (6 April 1979). "Libyan Troops Supporting Amin Said to Flee Kampala, Leaving It Defenseless". The New York Times. p. 9. Retrieved 21 December 2019.
  4. 1 2 Lowman 2020, p. 47.
  5. Lowman 2020, p. 46.
  6. Lowman 2020, pp. 46–47, 77.
  7. 1 2 Rice 2003, p. 8.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Baligema, Isaac (7 August 2010). "Fadhul ill, family seeks assistance". New Vision. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  9. Lowman 2020, p. 77.
  10. 1 2 Lowman 2020, p. 78.
  11. Rice 2009, p. 167.
  12. 1 2 Rice 2003, p. 9.
  13. Rice 2009, p. 180.
  14. Lowman 2020, pp. 102, 104.
  15. Rice 2009, p. 183.
  16. Lowman 2020, p. 105.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Malaba, Tom (23 January 2009). "Brigadier Ali Fadhul Free with Nowhere to Go". Uganda Radio Network. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 Mugisa, Anne (20 January 2009). "Fadhul was Amin's trusted army officer". New Vision. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  19. 1 2 Rice 2003, p. 13.
  20. Lowman 2020, pp. 250–251.
  21. Lowman 2020, p. 151.
  22. Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 37.
  23. Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 39.
  24. Lowman 2020, p. 185.
  25. Arinaitwe, Solomon (25 November 2012). "Nubians endure pain as accounts remain frozen". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  26. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Bita, George; Mukyala, Esther (23 January 2009). "Fadhul sleeps in dilapidated home". New Vision. Retrieved 19 May 2020.

Works cited