- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2003

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — An ailing Idi Amin, whose eight-year presidency of Uganda is remembered for the torture and killing of more than 200,000 people, was in a coma in a Saudi hospital yesterday, medical staff at the hospital said.

Amin, believed to be 80, was in critical condition and on a respirator at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in the Red Sea port city of Jiddah, staff members said on the condition of anonymity. He was admitted to the hospital Friday.

“His situation is very bad; we don’t expect him to last until tomorrow,” a hospital official said yesterday.

Amin, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia, had been suffering from high blood pressure, medical staff said.

The former Ugandan leader has been in a coma since his admission to the hospital and was in the intensive-care unit. Three of his sons were by their father’s bedside.

In Uganda, the independent Sunday Monitor reported that Amin, who seized power in 1971 and was ousted in 1979, had been undergoing treatment for the past three months for hypertension and “general fatigue.”

The newspaper quoted Nalongo Madina Amin — “Amin’s favorite wife” — as saying she had approached Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni some time ago and asked that her husband be allowed to return to the East African nation to die, but was told the former dictator would have to “answer for his sins.”

In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where Mr. Museveni was attending a meeting on Burundi, his press assistant, Oonapito Ekonioloit, said that Amin was in Saudi Arabia on his own accord, and that his relatives “are free to bring him back to Uganda.”

“Everyone knows he has a past. If he has any case to answer, it will be dealt with according to the law,” Mr. Ekonioloit said. “He’s a free citizen. It’s a private matter between Amin and his family whether they want to bring him back alive or dead.”

Amin, who served in the British colonial King’s African Rifles and saw action in World War II in Burma, was a well-regarded officer at the time of Uganda’s independence from Britain in 1962. He rose to chief of staff of Uganda’s army and air force in 1966.

He fell out with Ugandan leader Milton Obote and ousted him on Jan. 25, 1971, when Mr. Obote was attending an African summit.

Though initially popular, Amin grew increasingly authoritarian, violent and subject to mood swings. It is estimated that more than 200,000 Ugandans were tortured and murdered during his regime, which ended April 11, 1979, when he was ousted by a combined force of Ugandan exiles — including Mr. Museveni — and the Tanzanian army.

Amin, a Muslim and member of the small Kakwa tribe of northwestern Uganda, went into exile first in Libya then Iraq, and finally settled in Saudi Arabia on the condition that he stay out of politics.

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