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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 August, 2003, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
Obituary: The buffoon tyrant
Idi Amin
Idi Amin: Reigned with terror, ruled by decree
Idi Amin presided over a reign of terror in Uganda, during which an estimated 300,000 people died.

He seized power in 1971 and condemned his country to a decade of fear.

Idi Amin's rule ended only when he was himself ousted by forces from neighbouring Tanzania.

Born in 1925 in Uganda's remote West Nile region, the young Amin looked to the military as a source of advancement.

Joining the Kings African Rifles in 1948 he enjoyed rapid promotion, becoming, in 1961, one of the first two Ugandans to be given the Queen's Commission.

He became army chief of staff four years after Uganda won independence from the United Kingdom in 1962.

Idi Amin
Amin awarded himself the Victoria Cross
Amin grew increasingly frustrated with the government of President Milton Obote, finally seizing power in a bloody coup in January 1971 while Obote was abroad.

Initially viewed as being strongly pro-British, Amin's reputation suffered a blow in the summer of 1972 when he expelled the whole of Uganda's Asian population, blaming them for controlling the economy for their own ends.

'King of Scotland'

Appropriating British property in Uganda, Amin curtailed business between the two countries and constantly threatened to expel all Britons remaining there.

Rule by decree became the order of the day and he purged anyone he considered to be a threat.

Idi Amin in a swimming pool
Idi Amin relaxes
Amin was a compelling speaker and this, together with his commanding physical presence, led many people to believe what he said. To others, though, he was simply mad.

Amin is reported to have expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and kept the severed heads of political opponents in his refrigerator.

The depth of Amin's cruelty was matched only by the eccentricity of his behaviour.

He declared himself King of Scotland, banned hippies and mini-skirts, and appeared at a royal Saudi Arabian funeral in 1975 wearing a kilt.

He awarded himself the Victoria Cross, offered to visit Northern Ireland as a peace mediator, and said that he, not the Queen, should be head of the Commonwealth.

In the summer of 1975, relations between Amin's Uganda and Britain hit a new low when a British university lecturer, Denis Hills, was sentenced to death by a Ugandan court for treason following comments made in a book critical of Amin.

Hills' execution was only averted only after the British Foreign Secretary, James Callaghan, visited Amin.

The hijacking of an Air France Airbus over the Mediterranean in June 1976 led to a dramatic international crisis with President Amin at its centre.

Ugandan Asians arriving in the UK
Amin expelled Uganda's Asian population in 1972
The plane, seized by Palestinian and West German terrorists, flew to Entebbe airport.

Amin took charge of negotiations. But Israeli special forces made a spectacular, long-range, raid on the airport, freeing the hostages and crew.

But one of the hostages, 75-year-old Dora Bloch, who held joint British and Israeli citizenship, disappeared a day after the raid.

There were reports that she had been dragged away by Ugandan troops and killed. By the end of the month, Britain had broken off diplomatic relations with Uganda.

Tyrant in exile

The murder in 1977 of the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Dr Janani Luwum, was only one of many instances of political violence perpetrated during Amin's rule.

Milton Obote (in 1980)
Milton Obote was Amin's bete noire
A series of skirmishes between Uganda and Amin's old enemy Tanzania came to a head in January 1979, when Ugandan army exiles, supported by Tanzanian troops, carried out a full-scale invasion.

President Amin's reign began to crumble.

By February he had evacuated some of his five wives and dozens of children. As his capital fell, he slipped through the net, finally turning up in Libya, his years in power over.

Ironically he was replaced by the man he deposed, Milton Obote.

Obote's regime possibly tortured and killed even more people than Amin's but he kept a lower profile than his predecessor and never raised such international uproar.

In later years, Idi Amin lived quietly in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, helped by large handouts from the country's government. An attempt to return to Uganda, where the consequences of his tyranny are still felt, came to nothing.

The BBC's David Chazan
"He was called the butcher of Africa"

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