English translation
small arms newsletter of the German Campaign against small arms
March 2007

The Last King of Scotland and the Bride of the German Soldier

by Roman Deckert

for a historical photograph of G3 in Uganda see:

The horrendous regime of the Ugandan tyrant Idi Amin was based on German small arms technology – Aminīs henchmen killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians with G3 assault rifles from Heckler & Koch. The very evidence is given by the movie "The Last King of Scotland", for which main actor Forest Whitaker received a well earned academy award in March this year. The screenplay features the G3 – dearly nicknamed by the Bundeswehr as "the Bride of the German Soldier" – in nearly every scene most prominently. As the film was shot on the original location, the props were in fact borrowed from the depots of the Ugandan Armed Forces.

Declassified documents from the archives of the German ministry of foreign affairs prove that sales managers of Heckler & Koch rushed to Kampala in 1971, only weeks after Aminīs bloody coup dīetat against Milton Obote. They demonstrated the quality of the G3, the MP5 submachine gun and the HK21 machine gun convincing Amin at once. When the West German government of Willy Brandt barred the proposed arms transfer, Heckler quickly turned to its French partner Manufacture Nationale dīArmes de St. Etienne which supplied the Ugandan Army with 10.000 G3 just a few months later. The ministry of foreign affairs in Bonn reacted by instructing its embassy in Kampala to simply ignore the deal. According to independent scholars Amin also received G3 from Saudi Arabia where Heckler & Koch set up a complete arms plant, while Libya financed the purchase of Mercedes trucks.

The rebels, on the other side, killed with Heckler weapons too. When Amin presented G3 booties captured from Oboteīs fighters, the West German diplomats merely shrugged their shoulders: "Arms of any types are available to insurgents on the worldwide market, of course." However, they knew all too well that Heckler had sold thousands of G3 to Tanzania which was now the main supporter of the rebels. The ministry of foreign affairs in Bonn had approved of the exports until 1971 despite suspicions that Tanzania passed them on to rebels in Biafra and Mozambique. The German officials continued to authorize Tanzanian purchases of ammunition and Mercedes army trucks, thus fuelling the conflict between the two East African countries.

The joint Ugandan-Tanzanian forced managed to overthrow Amin, but the rule of small arms did not stop in what used to be known as "the pearl of Africa". Hundreds of thousands of people were killed after Oboteīs return to power. G3 HK21 as well as AK47 and AKM submachine guns "Made in East Germany" served as weapons of mass destruction. They still do today: in the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s child soldiers. There is no shortage of supplies since the whole region has been awash with German small arms for decades. Sudan got large quantities of Heckler & Koch and Rheinmetall weapons from German, Saudi, Iranian and Pakistani production. Kenya was heavily equipped with G3 from the Enfield Factories in England, partly financed through the offset agreement for the British forces based in West Germany. The East German rivals transferred hundreds of thousands of Kalashnikovs to Ethiopia, which supported the SPLA-rebels in Southern Sudan. As a result, millions of Africans were killed, many more were forced to flee their homes, traumatized for life.

Germany must face up to this historical responsibility. Since the ministry of defence profited financially from granting licences for the production of small arms to at least fifteen foreign allies, it would be just fair to pay for its consequences, for instance by sponsoring disarmament projects on a large scale. It is an utter shame that the ministry of foreign affairs did not care at all about the export of G3 to Amin whereas it was most alarmed about a planned boxing match. In 1976 former boxing champion Amin wanted to celebrate his martial skills in a show fight against former European heavyweight champ Karl Mildenberger, who is famous for his performance versus Muhammad Ali in 1967. The ministry of foreign affairs in Bonn urged Karl "The Mild" for deliberate defeat in order to avoid diplomatic tensions. When he flatly refused such a fake manoeuvre the bureaucrats tried to stop the export of his fists on the grounds of legal restrictions on the export of arms. As a matter of fact, no German government up to this day has ever made any move to stop the transfer of German small arms from foreign licence production.


is a researcher in the Berlin Information-center for Transatlantic Security (BITS). He writes his PhD-thesis on the history of German-Sudanese Relations.