Amin asks to be buried back in Uganda

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IDI Amin, the former Ugandan leader whose regime was one of the most brutal in African history, has fallen into a coma in his exile home of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

One of Amin’s wives, Nalongo Madina Amin, said that Amin, 80, the man who killed thousands of his fellow countrymen and declared himself "King of Scotland", is on a life support machine.

"We have contacted the [Ugandan] government to ask that if he dies his body can be brought back home for a decent burial," said Mrs Amin, from Jeddah. A Ugandan newspaper called her his "favourite wife".

Some 400,000 or more Ugandans are estimated to have been killed by Amin’s execution squads during his 1971-1979 military dictatorship.

A former sergeant in the British colonial King’s African Rifles, he seized power in a coup that overthrew the country’s post-independence leader, Milton Obote. Britain’s MI6 and Israel’s Mossad connived in Amin’s takeover.

After at least a dozen assassination attempts, he was finally overthrown when 45,000 Tanzanian troops invaded Uganda in January 1979.

Amin went into exile first in Libya and then in Saudi Arabia, where he has lived for the past ten years with at least six wives and an estimated 43 children.

Three of his sons were by their unconscious father’s bedside. "His situation is very bad, we don’t expect him to last until tomorrow," a hospital official said.

So pleased was Britain at having rid Uganda of Mr Obote, an autocratic socialist, that it laid on official visits for Amin in Britain in 1971 and 1972. But he emerged as one of Africa’s most infamous dictators.

Amin was flown on the Queen’s flight in July 1971 from London to Edinburgh. He was taken for a spot of sea bathing before attending the beating of the retreat in Edinburgh Castle by the pipes and drums of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

"I like Scots best because they are the best fighters in Britain and do not practise discrimination," said the former NCO, who made himself a field marshal and awarded himself the Victorious Cross and a CBE (Conqueror of the British Empire).

The infamous mass murderer, grist for the mill for British comedy shows, was also the subject of Giles Foden’s novel The Last King of Scotland, which explored his strange relationship with the Scots.

The title came from one of Amin’s many outrageous remarks: "If the Scots want me to be their king, I will."

Amin learned to play the bagpipes, wore the kilt and put one regiment of his own army into kilts.

A Muslim with six living wives, thought to have murdered several others, he gave two of his sons Scottish names, Campbell and Mackintosh. In colonial times he had learned to sing Scottish ballads and dirty rugby songs with the "boys" at the Kampala Rugby Club, where he was a devastating winger.

What was good fun for British wits and newspapers was a living nightmare for Ugandans. Amin struck against Mr Obote on 25 January, 1971, while the Ugandan president was at a Commonwealth summit in Singapore.

Britain immediately recognised the new Ugandan ruler. The Daily Telegraph called him "a welcome contrast to other African leaders and a staunch friend of Britain".

But as Britain was congratulating him on becoming Uganda’s president for life, the mass killing had begun.

Former Obote ministers were the first to die. My own friend, John Kakonge, Uganda’s minister of agriculture, was the second man killed by Amin’s execution squad, the so-called State Research Bureau.

Just a few weeks earlier, John had made his last call on my family, visiting my parents on their council house estate in an embassy Rolls Royce, setting neighbours’ curtains twitching.

John Kakonge died in the notorious Makindye Prison, atop one of the seven hills that rim Kampala, Uganda’s capital. His skull was crushed with a 20lb sledgehammer.

In the prison, condemned men were made to smash the skull of the victim before him while waiting for the death blow from the next in line.

In 1972, the Queen entertained Amin at dinner in Buckingham Palace. Meanwhile, Amin’s killers were butchering soldiers from the Langi and Acholi ethnic groups, the backbone of the army.

Truckloads of murdered soldiers were dumped into the Nile, to be replaced by men from Amin’s West Nile district. No-one was immune from the murder squads. Uganda’s chief justice, Benedicto Kiwanuka, was dragged from the high court by soldiers and never seen again.

The vice-chancellor of the University of Makerere, once the finest universities in black Africa, disappeared.

When Janan Luwuum, Uganda’s Anglican archbishop, spoke out against the regime of terror, Amin publicly denounced him. The Archbishop’s bullet-riddled body, still in ecclesiastical robes, was dumped in a Kamapala mortuary.

Towards the end of 1972, Amin switched allegiance from Britain and Israel to Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and the Palestinians.

Ruling by fear, he forced many thousands of Asian Ugandans out of the country to Britain, Canada and Australia.

Remaining British businessmen, anxious to maintain their blissful way of life in a country Winston Churchill once called "the pearl of Africa", publicly knelt at Amin’s feet and swore an oath of allegiance to him.

When Amin switched allegiance to the Palestinians, advising Israeli prime minister Golda Meir to "tuck up her knickers" and run to Washington, he set the scene for one of the most dramatic rescue missions in modern history.

In June 1976, Palestinian terrorists hijacked an Air France airliner on a flight originating at Tel Aviv, flew it to Uganda’s Entebbe Airport and, with Amin’s co-operation, holding hostage a hundred passengers, they demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners captive in Israel.

In a daring night raid, Israeli commandos routed Ugandan soldiers guarding the airfield and rescued the hostages.

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