Idi Amin, exiled Butcher of Africa, lies critically ill in a Saudi hospital

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The Independent Online

Idi Amin Dad, the exiled former Ugandan dictator, was reported to be in a coma yesterday in a hospital in Saudi Arabia, where his condition was said to be critical.

Mr Amin was admitted to the King Faisal Specialist hospital in Jeddah on Friday and was on a life-support machine over the weekend. "His situation is very bad. We don't expect him to last until tomorrow," a hospital official said yesterday, adding that the former leader has been suffering from high blood pressure.

One of Mr Amin's wives, Madina, said: "We have contacted the [Ugandan] government to ask that if he dies he can be brought home for a decent burial."

Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, had previously turned down a request for the 80-year-old to be allowed to travel back to Uganda to die in peace, telling Mrs Amin her husband would have to "answer for his sins".

A spokesman for Mr Museveni said in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, yesterday, that Mr Amin was in Saudi Arabia of 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. 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," Oonapito Ekonioloit said.

Many Ugandans believe that Mr Amin would face trial if he returned home alive. Several of his children live and work in Uganda.

Mr Amin, whose brutal military dictatorship from 1971 to 1979 earned him the title the Butcher of Africa, has lived with his entourage in Saudi Arabia for more than 10 years, having previously spent almost a decade in exile in Libya and Iraq. In Uganda, the Sunday Monitor reported that three of Mr Amin's 43 children were with him at the Saudi hospital, where the former dictator has been receiving treatment for hypertension and fatigue for the past three months.

Mr Amin, a Muslim and member of the small Kakwa tribe from north-west Uganda, presided over one of the bloodiest regimes in African history. At the time of Uganda's independence from Britain in 1962, he was a well-regarded officer, having served in the King's African Rifles and fought for Britain in the Second World War in Burma.

He rose quickly to become chief of staff of Uganda's army and air force in 1966 but fell out with the President, Milton Obote, whom he ousted in a military coup in 1971 while the head of state was attending an African summit.

Mr Amin's initially popular rule soon became more authoritarian and nationalistic. He was prone to violent mood swings and morbid eccentricity. One of his pastimes was reported to involve berating the decapitated heads of his political rivals during mock dinner parties. In an attempt to "Africanise" Uganda's economy, he gave 60,000 Asians, mainly Indians, 90 days to leave the country, with many fleeing to Britain to escape persecution.

Up to 400,000 people are estimated to have died or are still unaccounted for because of state-sponsored violence during Mr Amin's term of office.

Abroad, he was widely seen as a figure of ridicule. He once declared himself King of Scotland and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa, and even offered to visit Northern Ireland as a peace mediator. Mr Amin was eventually overthrown in April 1979 by Ugandan exiles, including Mr Museveni, and the Tanzanian army, against which he led a series of failed invasion attempts.