Ugandan Dictator Amin Buried in Saudi Arabia

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    Ugandan Dictator Amin Buried in Saudi Arabia

    Reuters
    Saturday, August 16, 2003; 2:08 PM


    By Paul Busharizi

    KAMPALA (Reuters) - Former Ugandan President Idi Amin, one of Africa's bloodiest despots who was blamed for killing tens of thousands of his people, was buried at a small funeral in Saudi Arabia hours after his death on Saturday.

    Amin, a Muslim, was buried in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah where he had lived for much of the time since being ousted from power in 1979, one of his sons said. Amin was in his late 70s.

    "He is buried. The family decided and we have buried him in Jeddah," Ali Amin said by telephone from his home in Jinja, 50 miles east of Uganda's capital Kampala.

    "The funeral was modest and the attendance was small, mostly family members," said a Saudi media source, declining to be identified.

    A senior source at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah told Reuters Amin had died from complications due to multiple organ failure. He had been critically ill for weeks.

    Many Ugandans accused the one-time boxing champion, who seized power in a military coup in 1971, of keeping severed heads in a fridge, feeding corpses to crocodiles and having one of his wives dismembered. Some said he practiced cannibalism.

    Amin, who expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler, was denounced inside and outside Africa for killing tens of thousands of people during his 1971-79 rule. Some estimates put the figure at more than 100,000. He also expelled thousands of Asians from the former British colony.

    UGANDANS REACT WITH RELIEF AND NOSTALGIA

    Ugandans reacted with a mixture of relief at the death of a tyrant and nostalgia for a leader who many applauded for expelling Asians who had dominated economic life.

    "After chasing the Indians away, the African people were involved in business. Before that, they were just casual laborers," said trader Bwogi Serebe, 35, in the town of Entebbe.

    Amin was born in 1925, according to most sources, to a peasant family of the small, predominantly Muslim Kakwa tribe at Arua in Uganda's remote West Nile district.

    A large and imposing figure who revelled in publicity, Amin's eccentric behavior created the image of a buffoon given to erratic outbursts.

    He declared himself King of Scotland, banned hippies and miniskirts, and attended a Saudi royal funeral wearing a kilt.

    In a rare interview in 1999, Amin told a Ugandan newspaper he liked to play the accordion and to recite from the Koran. He said most of his food came from Uganda.

    After seizing power in 1971, he became a dictator who violated every fundamental human right during a "reign of terror," the International Commission of Jurists said.

    In 1972, he expelled some 40,000 Asians -- descendants of migrants from the British Empire in India -- saying God had told him to transform Uganda into "a black man's country."

    He himself was driven from Uganda in 1979 by forces from neighboring Tanzania and Ugandan exiles. Saudi Arabia gave him sanctuary in the name of Islamic charity.

    Amin had lived quietly in exile in Jeddah with four wives on a government stipend.

    Indian community leaders in Kampala, mindful of lingering tensions, struck a conciliatory note, saying it closed "another chapter" in Uganda's history. Others could not hide their joy.

    "I was absolutely thrilled," said Susan, an Asian who returned from exile even though Amin's security forces had killed her uncle and brother in 1972.

    "The world is a better place with his death and my brother and uncle can now rest in peace," she said.

    (Additional reporting by John R. Bradley in Jeddah, Miral Fahmy in Dubai and James Macharia in Entebbe)


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