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Ex-Ugandan Dictator Idi Amin Dies
JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Aug. 16) - Idi Amin, who called himself ``a pure son of Africa,'' but whose bizarre and murderous eight years as president of Uganda typified the continent's worst dictatorships, died Saturday. He was believed to be 80.
Amin, who had lived for years in exile in this Saudi port city, died at 8:20 a.m at King Faisal Specialist hospital, a hospital official said on condition of anonymity.
Amin had been hospitalized on life-support since July 18. He was in a coma and suffering from high blood pressure when he was admitted to the hospital. Later, hospital staff, said he suffered kidney failure.
A one-time heavyweight boxing champ and soldier in the British colonial army, Amin seized power on Jan. 25, 1971, overthrowing President Milton Obote while he was abroad.
What followed was a reign of terror laced with buffoonery and a flirtation with Palestinian terrorism that led to the daring 1976 Israeli raid to rescue hijack hostages in his country.
In Kampala, Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni's spokesman called Amin's death "good."
"His death and burial will signal the end of our bad past," the spokesman, Oonapito Ekonioloit, said.
Ugandan officials said Amin was 80, though other sources had him born in 1925.
Obote once called Amin "the greatest brute an African mother has ever brought to life." President Jimmy Carter said events in Uganda during Amin's rule "disgusted the entire civilized world."
Ugandans initially welcomed Amin's rise to power, and his frequent taunting of Britain, former colonial ruler of much of Africa, often played well on the continent.
But his penchant for the cruel and extravagant became evident in 1972, when he expelled tens of thousands of Asians who had controlled the country's economy. Deprived of its business class, the East African nation plummeted into economic chaos.
Michael Mademaga, 41, an office messenger in the Ugandan capital claimed that Amin's agents killed his uncle in 1974.
"I feel happy that he has died. His body should be brought back to Uganda and put on display and people view it and see somebody who killed so many people," Mademaga said.
Amin declared himself president-for-life of his landlocked country of 24 million, awarded himself an array of medals and ran the country with an iron fist, killing real and imagined enemies.
Human rights groups say from 100,000 to 500,000 people were killed during his 8-year rule. Bodies were dumped into the Nile River because graves couldn't be dug fast enough. At one point, so many bodies were fed to crocodiles that the remains occasionally clogged intake ducts at Uganda's main hydroelectric plant at Jinja.
"Even Amin does not know how many people he has ordered to be executed ... The country is littered with bodies," said Henry Kyemba, Amin's longtime friend and a former health minister, when he defected to Britain in 1977.
Amin was born into the small Kakwa tribe in Koboko, a village in northwestern Uganda. His mother was a self-proclaimed sorceress of the Lugbara tribe and he was in his 30's before he had regular contact with his peasant father.
A semiliterate school dropout, Amin boasted that he knew ``more than doctors of philosophy because as a military man I know how to act.''
"I am a man of action," he said.
And words. He said Hitler "was right to burn six million Jews," and offered to be king of Scotland if asked. He challenged his neighbor and frequent critic, Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, to a boxing match, and wrote to Richard Nixon wishing him "a speedy recovery" from Watergate.
Amin was a well-regarded officer at the time of Uganda's independence from Britain in 1962, and Obote made him military chief of staff in 1966.
The 250-pound president called himself Dada, or ``Big Daddy,'' and in 1975 was even chosen as for the one-year rotating chairmanship of the Organization of African Unity despite objections from some member states.
But mismanagement and corruption of his entourage drove Uganda into an abyss and its economy tumbled toward subsistence levels. The United States and Britain severed ties during Amin's rule. Israel went from staunch military and economic ally to hated enemy for refusing to support his aggressive military ambitions.
In 1976 a Palestinian group hijacked an Air France airliner to Entebbe Airport in Uganda and kept its Israeli passengers as hostages. Israeli commandos flew to Entebbe under cover of darkness and rescued the captives. Amin claimed he had been trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution, but there was plenty of evidence that he was in league with the hijackers.
Amin's overreaching designs led to his downfall after his troops failed in their attempt to annex parts of Tanzania in Oct. 1978. Tanzanian troops counter-invaded, routed Amin's Soviet- and Arab-equipped army and reached the Ugandan capital, Kampala, in April 1979.
Amin, a convert to Islam, fled to Libya, then Iraq and finally Saudi Arabia, where he was allowed to settle provided he stayed out of politics. In later months, he was joined by one of his two wives and his 22 children.
Obote returned to power in 1980 elections and unleashed what many felt was an even worse repression than Amin's. Since 1986 Uganda has been ruled by Museveni. Uganda remains a one-party state but has gradually returned to relative peace and normality.
Amin, meanwhile, moved into a luxury house in the Red Sea port city of Jiddah, with cars, drivers, cooks and maids paid for by the Saudi government. He would occasionally telephone journalists abroad to announce fantastical schemes to reconquer Uganda, or to protest against cuts in his gasoline allowance. But the Saudis got angry and made him stop.
In a rare interview in 1999, Amin told a Ugandan newspaper he liked to play the accordion, fish, swim, recite from the Quran and read. He said most of his food - including fresh cassava, cassava flour and millet flour - still came from Uganda.
He was sometimes spotted on evening walks along the coast or attending Friday prayers in a nearby mosque.
Amin is believed to have married at least four times and had some 30 children, many of whom had joined him in exile in Saudi Arabia.
In Kampala, one of his sons, Ali Amin Ramadhan, 40, said he did not know yet where his father would be buried. "I am very sad and confused," he said.
I Won't Mourn Amin - Museveni New Vision (Kampala) August 19, 2003 Nathan Etengu And Richard Otim
President Yoweri Museveni has criticised Uganda embassy officials in Saudi Arabia for visiting former dictator Idi Amin in a Saudi hospital where he died on Saturday. "He thought dying in Mecca would make a difference. What will Idi Amin be remembered for. When he was killing people, did he think he was immortal?" Museveni asked. He was addressing Teso leaders at Soroti Hotel on Saturday. He said he would never touch Idi Amin's body, even if it meant using a long stick. "I even heard that our people at the embassy in Saudi Arabia went to see him in hospital. What is wrong with some people. See Amin for what," Museveni wondered. He said the Government would have ordered for the national flag to be flown at half-mast if Amin was a respected leader. He said he dis-agreed with Amin right from the time the dictator took over power in 1971. "Idi Amin ruled me for only one day. Thereafter I went into exile because I could not be led by a leader like Amin. He was an illiterate," Museveni said. He said he disagreed with the Democratic Party for supporting Idi Amin on the basis that the dictator had helped over-throw Milton Obote whom the party opposed. "I told the DP that I could not support Idi Amin even if I had problems with Obote," Museveni said. He said most of the people who celebrated Amin's ascension into power later suffered both individually and as a community over the atrocities that were committed by the dictator's regime. Museveni, however, said his government had been supporting Idi Amin's family. The meeting presented proposals for ending the LRA in Teso and Uganda. Soroti LC5 chairman Captain John Emily Otekat, on behalf of the other leaders, appealed for a special grant to the districts that had been destabilised by the invasion. Former Iteso cultural leader Emorimor Paphras Imodot narrated to Museveni how he was abducted by the rebels on August 6. He said rebel chief Tabuley forced him to pose for photos.
President Museveni: No Tears for Amin The Monitor (Kampala) August 19, 2003 Ogen Kevin Aliro
President Yoweri Museveni is not mourning for Idi Amin who died in Saudi Arabia on Saturday. "I am not mourning at all," Mr Museveni said in Soroti yesterday as he met more than 200 Teso leaders at the Soroti Hotel. Museveni said that the former president was an illiterate who killed many Ugandans and caused problems for the country. "Did he think he was immortal, that he wouldn't die? I would not bury Amin. I will never touch Amin. Never. Not even with a very long spoon." Museveni said that Ugandan embassy officials in Saudi Arabia who went to visit Amin in hospital did not amuse him. "I hear that they went to visit Amin in hospital. For what purpose? This Amin who died the other day. Mbu he was buried in Mecca as if that is going to improve his chances [in the other world]." The President said that he had refused to listen to his government officials who wanted him to accord Amin a state funeral or a burial in Uganda in order to "trap votes from West Nile (Amin's home region)". "I don't need that support at all from political malayas. Those are political prostitutes. People must have principles," Museveni said, drawing thunderous applause from delegates drawn from all the four districts of Teso. If Amin had been a respected former leader, Museveni would have ordered flags to fly at half-mast when he died. Instead, the President said, Amin only caused problems for Uganda during his eight-year rule from 1971 to 1979. An estimated 300,000 Ugandans were killed or simply "disappeared" during that period which ended when a combined force of Ugandan exiles and the Tanzanian army toppled Amin on April 11, 1979. "Why was Amin [causing] all these problems? What did he achieve? What did he do for Uganda? What will Amin be remembered for?" Museveni asked. "That he killed," the audience volunteered. Museveni however said that the government had supported Amin's wife, Ms Madina Amin, to go and see her husband in hospital. "I assisted his wife. I said this is your family problem, but we shall help you. Even Amin's children are not the ones who committed the crimes and I have been looking after Amin's children in Uganda. But Amin himself? I am not mourning at all." Museveni said that he was the first Ugandan to oppose Amin. "Amin took power on January 25 and I fled Uganda on the 27th. So he ruled me for only one day, on the 26th." He said that while Amin's predecessor, Mr Milton Obote, had made a lot mistakes, the man who overthrew him on January 25, 1971 was more dangerous. "I could not support Amin even if I had problems with Obote." Museveni blamed academics and leading DP politicians such as Mr Benedicto Kiwanuka and Mzee Boniface Byanyima for supporting Amin and celebrating when he overthrew Obote. "People like Dan Nabudere, my minister Edward Rugumayo. Even a very intelligent person like Wanume Kibedi, they all supported Amin." Museveni said that people should oppose things or people out of principle, not out of personal fear. "But for the Byanyimas and Kiwanukas, they believed that the enemy of your opponent - anybody against Obote - was their friend. But how could you side with Amin?" Museveni said that if intellectuals and politicians such as Nabudere and Byanyima had not supported Amin and had joined then Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere to galvanise international opinion against the regime, Amin wouldn't have lasted eight years or caused so much suffering to Ugandans. "I don't want to be nasty. But many of those people who celebrated when Amin took over lost a lot individually and personally," Museveni said. Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka for example "disappeared" - presumably killed on the orders of Idi Amin. According to Museveni, all those who supported Amin were partly guilty of his crimes. "It was not the fault of Amin alone. He was not the main problem. The main problem was the people like Nabudere and Byanyima who supported him," the president said.
Is This the Death of 'Aminism?' The East African (Nairobi) OPINION August 18, 2003
It was said that in his last days, Idi Amin had expressed the desire to come back home. The wish was not granted, not just because Amin was probably too sick to undertake the long journey but because, ever since he went into a coma, debate has raged, with some saying that he did not deserve to be buried in Uganda, while others felt that he should be forgiven for the crimes he committed. Amin has left a great many questions unanswered, especially over whether he was responsible for all the killings that happened during his eight-year rule. Had Amin come home and faced trial, Ugandans might have come to better terms with his legacy. For example, there is no reason why former president, Apollo Milton Obote, should still be living in Zambia. If he has committed any crimes, he should come back home and face them in a court of law as any honourable man would. Ugandans can now reflect on the kind of country that produced the likes of Amin, for surely, the kind of leadership associated with him was a product of this society. And just because it is 24 years since he was overthrown, it does not mean that the threats to constitutionalism, tolerance and democratic rule are all gone. If anything, more Ugandans are now living under worse conditions because of the 18-year-old civil war in the north, and poverty in the rural areas is said to be at its worst. It would therefore be unwise to think that the death of Amin means the death of "Aminism." We should not forget that thousands of children are missing and some are still being abducted because of the failure to cultivate a culture of political tolerance in the country. Uganda has also participated in regional wars that are said to have killed up to four million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. So, the society that produced Amin has produced other monsters. The death of Amin in Saudi Arabia should remind leaders, and not just in Uganda, that your country is a place you should cherish; your countrymen a people you should respect, for death far from home is sorrowful and undignified. Much as our constitution-making process has been criticised and held in suspicion, it is the best opportunity to build a more tolerant society.
Amin's Foot Soldiers: The Untold Story The East African (Nairobi) ANALYSIS August 18, 2003 Charles Onyango-Obbo
UGANDA'S FORMER dictator Field Marshal Idi Amin, one of the most infamous tyrants of the 20th century died in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday, and was buried at a small funeral within hours after his death. Press reports routinely described him as "one of Africa's bloodiest despots." And so he was. Amin took power in January 1971, and by the time he was ousted in April 1979 by a combined force of the Tanzanian army and Ugandan exiles, his regime had killed up to 500,000 Ugandans, tortured hundreds of thousands, exiled about an equal number, and destroyed the economy and the nation once touted by Winston Churchill as the "Pearl of Africa." There is nothing in the above that is new. The stories about the madness and excesses of the Amin regime are legion. Many are true, and many are not. Amin is alleged to have chopped up his wife Kay as his children watched to punish her for adultery, had her limbs sewn back the wrong way, and showed the body to the children as "a lesson". Some versions say he kept some of the limbs, as he did that of other opponents, in the deep freezer in State House. And he occasionally feasted on the remains of his victims in some bizarre ritual of immortalisation. The story has all the elements that made Amin's regime, and the man, one of the most fascinating global character of his time. The giant black man, in uniform, wearing a revolver with an ivory butt, with a voracious sexual appetite was so good a stereotype, no one was willing to let the truth and big picture spoil it. However, in the Kay murder, it is not mentioned that she and Amin had been enstranged for about a year by the time she was decapitated. The only truth is that she had a relationship with another man. The poor woman then got pregnant - and her doctor boyfriend panicked. They decided to terminate the pregnancy, but the abortion went terribly wrong. Kay died. The doctor chopped her to bits, and carried bits of her away at a time in the boot of his Citroen. The security services got to him, after Kay was reported missing, before he got rid of all the body parts. The parts were sewn back to give her a semblance of a respectable burial. Amin had nothing to do with it. But it is a story where he has become the culprit, and the doctor has disappeared into anonymity. And therein lies the untold story of the Amin phenomenon. The evils of his regime have become so personalised, that the infrastructure of terror that kept him in power - the network of doctors, the lawyers, university professors and students, diplomats, and businesses - have escaped scrutiny. The stories of cannibalism, both real and imagined, serve ultimately to cover up the complicity of the "self respecting" elite who were Amin's foot soldiers. In the small closed intellectual circles in Uganda and in exile in the Amin years, and the period after, it was often whispered that Ugandans should be careful when they call Amin "an idiot" or "a buffoon", because it begs the question of what that makes the country he ruled for eight years. Though there were 12 unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Amin, and a few brave attempts to oppose him by organising armed resistance, they all failed. In conditions that were fertile for the growth of a mass national anti-dictatorship movement, none ever emerged. Eventually, the exile groups galvanised, after his disastrous annexation of the Kagera salient in Tanzania in late October 1978, and the Tanzanian army had repulsed Amin's troops and entered Uganda in hot pursuit. The Tanzanians didn't want to take Uganda and be an occupying power. They need a "Ugandan face" to their campaign. One reason the national resistance to Amin didn't emerge, had to do with the extent of the collaboration with the regime by the people who would normally lead such opposition. Because the Milton Obote government had become so unpopular, jailed so many opponents, and turned Uganda into a one-party regime, most sections of society embraced Amin as a "saviour." And intellectuals, from both the right and left of Uganda's political spectrum, were tripping over themselves to join up. This collaboration, contrary to popular perception, never ended after Amin's rule turned bloody and targeted intellectuals, exiling most of them. After the Amin regime fell, the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) government that succeeded him rode the outrage against the military terror and so it published photos in the newspapers of the agents and informers of the dreaded State Research Service from the organisation's files. One could literally hear the country hold it breath when the morning papers came out. Wives of husbands who had been disappeared turned out on the list, as did young people from middle-class families, dozens of some of the most liked students at the prestigious Makerere University, professionals of all types. None of them fitted the profile of the illiterate thugs who were seen as the bedrock of Amin's vicious control machine. The whole list was never published. Today, no one talks about it. And many people on it have found respectability. Some are even ministers. Amin, perhaps more than any other Ugandan president, seems to have understood that beneath the sophistication, the self-satisfied generosity of a people spoilt by a land that is fertile to a fault, of these "citizens of the pearl" lay something sinister that he could exploit. The more irreverent scholars argue that that is the reason why Amin was the last president to rule over the territory of Uganda as a whole. Ever since his fall, no president has been able to establish his authority over the entirety of country. The most troubled in this respect being Obote in his second rule, who had to contend with rebel groups in West Nile, and several in the south. The main group was President Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army/Movement, that eventually seized power in January 1986 after the embattled Obote army threw him out in a coup in the vain hope of cutting a power sharing deal with Museveni. Likewise, Museveni's years in government, while being the most productive and successful in Uganda since about 1972, have been marked by rebellions in one corner of the country or the other. The most persistent has been in northern Uganda, where a brutal insurgency has spread to the northeast, which had been pacified in 1991. In the north alone, about 800,000 internally displaced people are crammed into squalid "protected villages." The rebels of the paradoxically named Lord's Resistance Army have carried out a uniquely vicious war, abducting young children and recruiting them into its ranks as fighters or taking them as sex slaves. One of the most disastrous actions by Amin was his decision to expel over 60,000 Asians, most of them Ugandan citizens, in 1972. Amin said he been told in a dream to do so, and hand the economy back to the control of Ugandans. Today, a lot of people in government rightly denounce that action. And the government of Obote, which made the law to return the Asians' property, and Museveni's, which in the face of opposition fast forwarded that return, boast about their actions as landmarks of enlightened economic management. However, the Obote government had made proposals to confiscate some Asian property and redistribute it in the heady mid-1960s of radical post-Independence movements. However, it was shelved because his government thought it would be committing international suicide. About 15 years earlier, in the years leading up to Independence, there had been mass boycotts of Asian businesses. The political logic of the boycotts came from politicians who are influential in government today, and many people who denounce Amin today once lauded the earlier anti-Asian business boycotts as "revolutionary." Amin did not make the case for stealing Asian property. He merely executed the job. To this day, among the people who benefited from the business, he was a great patriot and pan-Africanist. Many times Amin would walk the streets, and there was a frenzy, with proud middle-class figures following him so he could throw a shop full of the expelled businessman's stock their way. They, of course, soon ran down the business. Many years of suffering followed. The businesses brought pain. People would falsely accuse the new "owner" of a business, he would be picked up and killed, and the accuser would become the new owner. And this cycle continued. Basic commodities disappeared, and families raised on tall birthday cakes, the finest selections of wine at dinner, two family cars, and all the frills were reduced to a livelihood where they couldn't find toothpaste, a bottle of soda, a few grains of sugar, or shoes for the children. The competition for the little there was brought out the worst in Ugandans. The scenes were straight out of William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Those in the know, but who won't speak, swear that Amin never led the coup that brought him power, although the accepted account is that Obote was due to arrest him and he struck first. One partially credible account has it that he fled when he heard news of the coup. The other has it that he was about to run away when he saw soldiers on a lorry approaching his house, then he realised they were cheering. The role of the British and the Israelis in the Amin coup is well known. But there is another little talked about group of accomplices - Obote's own UPC people. Partly as part of the "Africanisation" programme, and to consolidate power, the Obote government in the 1960s arranged for party functionaries to acquire small to medium shares in companies that were set up by the state, or private ones in which the government bought a stake in the "national interest." The biggest indigenous losers in the nationalisation programme that made Obote so unpopular, were UPC people. The puzzling failure by the security services to nip the Amin coup in the bud, is to be explained by the fact that their party people were in cahoots with the plotters. In the past 16 years, Ugandans have picked themselves up like no other war-ravaged society in Africa has, and thus found in themselves a resilience and creativity they never knew they had. In the eight years of Amin, they sank to levels of depravity, betrayal, weakness, greed, and fickleness they never thought they were capable of. Amin helped Uganda find out how low it could fall. However, we are more comfortable talking about our virtues, and don't want to think of what we saw when a dark window was opened on Uganda's soul in the Amin years. Amin is dead, but his social architecture lives on. Every government after 1979 has sought to establish its legitimacy on the base that it is "not as bad as Amin's." Many Ugandans, and the international community, are happy to go by the Amin standard. The result is that the country tends to accept generally low standards of human rights and is tolerant of "mildly" repressive politics, because "it is not as bad as during Amin's time." Now that he is dead, maybe, just maybe, Uganda will begin the self-examination that was not possible for as long as he lived.
'To Become Rich, You Had to Shout Amin's Praises' The East African (Nairobi) ANALYSIS August 18, 2003 Stephen Ouma And James Wafula
THROUGHOUT his eight-year nightmarish reign, Uganda's dictator, the late Idi Amin Dada, could have been described as not just a psychopathic maniac ready to kill real or imagined enemies, but also as a depraved character craving for recognition and blind praise. Many agreed that Amin's paranoid and murderous mind, there lurked a childlike longing for recognition, even love, which he never knew in his troubled childhood upbringing. Amin was said to have never known his father, being conceived after his mother had a fleeting affair with a man who, according to one account, was a Kakwa sugarcane cutter on Lugazi sugar plantation, some 50 kilometres east of Kampala. Amin's mother was then also working on the plantation while at the same time selling mandazi and samosa. Growing up in the cane plantations, Amin watched helplessly as his mother struggled to raise him amid great hardship. The Asian owners of Lugazi, the Madhvanis, were to be sent packing, given 90 days to leave despite being Ugandan citizens when Amin took power. His father was said to have been a drunkard and was reported to have continually battered Amin's mother, forcing her to abandon him and roam around Lugazi doing menial jobs as she struggled to raise the future president. However, the writer Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland, says Amin's mother was a camp-follower of the King's African Rifles. Amin dropped out of school at only standard three. Foden says he too sold doughnuts by the roadside. When Amin joined the King's African Rifles in the 1950s and was later deployed to Kenya's Lanet Army Barracks in Nakuru, his spectacular physique was said to have impressed the British colonial authorities, who quickly promoted him. Amin's largely loveless upbringing was what apparently led him to crave for recognition to the extent of giving himself all manner of titles. They included titles usually bestowed by the British Queen on her soldiers such as VC (Victoria Cross), MC (Military Cross), VSO (Victoria Service Order), CBE (in Amin's terminology, Conqueror of the British Empire). To prove that he was truly the Conqueror of the British Empire, Amin assembled a group of British businessmen and forced them to carry him shoulder-high in a chair as his terror squad watched closely. The Ugandan leader was assisted by his British-born military advisor Bob Astles. Amin was said to promptly reward anyone who praised him. He immediately ordered some students at Makerere University paid cash after they hailed him as "King of Africa." After the 1972 order expelling Asians, Amin went around the streets of Kampala, Jinja, Masaka and other towns in Uganda dishing out shops and factories to his relatives and cronies in an operation dubbed "Mafuta Mingi," returning wealth ("fat") to Ugandans. Those who were astute enough to shout praises as the dictator passed were rewarded beyond their wildest dreams. One such man is said to have shouted at the top of his voice, "Idi Amin Dada is a great man whom God has sent to rescue Ugandans." The beaming Amin, clearly overjoyed by the flattery, told the man to pick any shop he fancied and it would be his. While on a trip to the US, some Black Americans who believed the dictator was a "true son" of Africa opposed to imperialism and neo-colonialism, as Amin's spin doctors portrayed, poured into the streets to lavish praises on "Daddy." For their troubles, Amin paid them several thousand dollars. They had just made his day. When Amin fancied a woman, he would make her his wife. He would see a beautiful woman as he drove along the road and simply stop, grab her and take her home regardless of whether she was single or married. On national occasions, Amin would amuse crowds as he attempted to read through speeches that he never finished. Exasperated by the fact that he did not understand most of what he was reading, the dictator would flung aside the speech and begin to make his own erratic, off-the-cuff remarks. This was, invariably, nothing but a series of threats and insults against his perceived political enemies. He was always issuing dire threats while waving a thick finger menacingly. During such occasions at Nakivubo stadium where there would be a heavy presence of soldiers, men with beautiful girlfriends or even wives would be shocked to be rudely separated from their spouses. They would be flogged and beaten as the soldiers raped the women in the small ticket enclosures of the stadium. Many Ugandan families who lost their loved ones or suffered various degrees of torment under the brutal dictatorship of the 1970s would have preferred that the dictator be brought back to Kampala to stand trial for crimes against humanity. With Amin's death last Saturday, that possibility no longer exists.
Buffoonery, Ruthlessness Marked The Amin Years The East African (Nairobi) ANALYSIS August 18, 2003
IN SPITE of former Ugandan President Idi Amin's death last week in a Saudi Arabia hospital, his ghost is likely to continue haunting his countrymen for years to come. The dictator captured power in a bloody coup in January 1971, overthrowing President Apollo Milton Obote, a man he served as Army commander. Following the coup, Amin, who was semi-literate, was promptly recognised by the international community - including the West - largely because Obote had become unpopular. Obote had himself used the army to overthrow the first president, Sir Edward Mutesa, and thereafter abolished the traditional kingdoms and banned political party activities. Amin's eight-year reign of terror placed him in the same league as the likes of Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic and Adolf Hitler. He killed an estimated 400,000 people - including several Cabinet ministers, a Ugandan Anglican archbishop and a chief justice. "Up to this day, Uganda is still associated with Amin," remarks Kiyimba Balidawa, an IT specialist educated in America. "In many parts of the world, people know more about Amin than they do about Uganda. Some know the country because of Amin, while others think he is still our president." During his reign, educated people as well as old in any citizens were killed and persecuted, forcing many to flee into exile. The government and the army were dominated by illiterate people. A former minister in Amin's regime and now Third Deputy Prime Minister, Brig Moses Ali, says of Amin's inner circle: "Illiterates and sycophants were some of the people who spoilt Amin's government. They could not even read, but they excelled in praising him." In a move he said was aimed at putting business in the hands of black Africans, Amin in 1972 gave Ugandan Asians 90 days to leave the country. The Asians' vast businesses were given to the president's cronies, who mismanaged them, precipitating the economy's collapse. Amin became famous for his eccentric lifestyle and buffoonery. He once addressed the United Nations General Assembly in Luganda, a Ugandan dialect. He used to move around town on bicycles or jeeps, and held boxing, dancing and swimming contests with all and sundry. Standing six feet four inches and a professional boxer, the giant Amin once challenged the diminutive late Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere to a boxing match at a time when the two countries' relations were strained. The dictator offered to enter the ring with Nyerere with one of his arms tied behind him. The judicious Nyerere rejected the offer. Then Amin remarked that if Nyerere had been a woman, h would have married him as the Tanzanian leader was "beautiful". Later, Amin attacked and annexed Tanzania's Kagera region, claiming that it was Ugandan territory that the colonialists had transferred to Tanzania. That move marked the beginning of the dictator's downfall. Nyerere mobilised Ugandan exiles, supporting them with his own troops, arms and training, and they launched a campaign that eventually ousted Amin. Amin was a polygamist with five wives. At one time, he divorced three of them in a single announcement on national radio. After wedding one of them, Amin repeated the ceremony for the benefit of OAU presidents who were meeting in the Ugandan capital Kampala. He had one of them murdered for having an affair with another man. Her dismembered body was found in the boot of her lover's car. That same day, the lover was also found dead.
He Was Great - Sarah Amin New Vision (Kampala) August 19, 2003
On the wall of her living room where mourners assembled, hung a massive black-and-white picture of Idi Amin in full military decorations, reports Rupiny Buzzuga-Bazz in London. "Dr Amin was a good man, a good husband, a loving father and a great grand-father." With these words Sarah Kyolaba Amin, 47, summarised the life of her late husband, former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada. Sarah, Amin's fifth wife, was speaking to The New Vision at Kizza Business Consultants premises in Forest Gate, East London on Sunday. Clad in a black suit, white blouse and black head gear, Sarah, who persistently called the late Amin Doctor, said she was disturbed that the Government of Uganda objected to Amin's return home when he was critically ill. "Politics aside, Amin fought a lot for Ugandans and that should have been a very good example for him to return home," said the mother of four of Amin's children. "Amin has the right to be buried in Uganda because he was Ugandan," she said. The sombre-faced former first lady said the whole family was saddened by Amin's death. She said, "It's really sad. We hope that he will rest in peace. And we would like to thank the family, friends and everybody concerned who have been comforting us during this time of sadness. The children are saddened. I pray to God that He will make us recover from this big loss soon." Sarah, who did not attend Amin's burial, said she learned of his death through her stepson Aliga Amin who was at his father's death bed. "I didn't attend the burial because it was a very quick burial," she said. Amin was buried the same day he died in accordance with the Islamic law. She intends to travel with her children to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to visit Amin's grave. Sarah and Amin parted ways in 1983 and never saw each other again. She first went to Germany before relocating to London 12 years ago. Amin spotted her when she was only 16. Several Ugandans living in London joined Sarah to mourn Amin. Duwa prayers will be held today at Sarah's at Woodgreen, North London. By Sunday evening, 356 sympathisers had signed a condolence book at Sarah's residence. A handful including former Kampala Mayor Nasser Sebaggala spent Saturday night with Sarah at a vigil. Sebaggala said by burying Amin in Saudi Arabia, Uganda had lost the opportunity of attracting tourists to see Amin's grave.