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Some Wish Idi Amin Had Been Made to Pay

The late dictator was never punished for creating chaos and terror in Uganda.

August 17, 2003|From Associated Press

KAMPALA, Uganda — For many Ugandans, the death of former dictator Idi Amin on Saturday severed the last link to an era best forgotten: eight years of brutal rule defined by the deaths of up to 500,000 people and the memory of thousands of hastily disposed bodies collecting in Lake Victoria.

A quarter of a century after he went into exile, some found it galling that Amin was never punished for bringing so much misery to what had been a prosperous country. He never expressed remorse, and whiled away his later years fishing and taking strolls on the beach in Saudi Arabia.

"He should have lived longer to repent. He's now gone, he's dead, and it's beyond our human control, but he's going to face eternal judgment," said the Rev. Alfred Ocur, an Anglican priest in the central town of Lira.

Amin died at 8:20 a.m. in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, where he sought exile after his government was ousted in 1979. He had been on life support since July 18 and had suffered kidney failure. He was believed to be 78.

Amin was buried in Jidda after sunset prayers Saturday, said a person close to the family. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was told that few people attended the funeral.

Amin was a Muslim, and Islam encourages burial on the day of death, if possible.

Although the front pages of Uganda's papers were splashed with headlines proclaiming "Idi Amin is Dead," reaction was muted. During the last 25 years, a generation has grown up with no memory of Amin.

President Yoweri Museveni, who seized power in 1986 and was formally elected in 1996, has tried in recent years to promote unity and stability by encouraging Ugandans to condemn Amin's violent era. Last year, Uganda officially celebrated Amin's downfall for the first time, and the government has welcomed back those he expelled.

"We have no grudges against Amin because his era has ended," said Dalal Murtaza, 44, the chairman of Uganda's 15,000-member Indian Assn. "Now it's history because he is dead, and there's no point having grudges against a dead man."

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