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The Use of Force in International Law - A Case-Based Approach edited by Ruys, Tom; Corten, Olivier; Hofer, Alexandra (17th May 2018)

Part 1 The Cold War Era (1945–89), 22 The Ugandan–Tanzanian War—1978–79

Kenneth Chan

From: The Use of Force in International Law: A Case-Based Approach

Edited By: Tom Ruys, Olivier Corten, Alexandra Hofer

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved.date: 16 December 2019

Subject(s):
Gross violations — Political violence — Self-defence — Armed conflict — Armed attack

This chapter examines the conflict between Uganda and Tanzania, which resulted in the removal of President Idi Amin as head of state in the late 1970s. The initial passage lays out the facts of the case before considering the legal positions presented by the main parties to the conflict and the reactions of the international community. The final section assesses the broader international law implications of the episode. Although the legal justifications provided for Tanzania's actions by its government were vague and wide-ranging, in light of the massive human rights violations being committed by Amin, Tanzania's actions have been historically viewed as an early humanitarian intervention effort. This claim is however only somewhat supported on the facts. Ultimately, the international community's willingness to overlook the illegality of Tanzania's invasion and violation of Uganda's sovereignty (which far exceeded the scope of its right to self-defense) can be understood as a matter of political convenience, wherein the removal of a notoriously difficult head of state was viewed as a politically and morally desirable outcome.

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