Africa, Headlines

KAMPALA-POLITICS: Amin Stays Put In Jeddaha


KAMPALA, Nov 12 1995 (IPS) - Exiled former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin has ended speculation here that he was either about to accept an olive branch from President Yoweri Museveni and return home, or fight his way back to power.

In an interview published last week in Kampala’s state-owned newspaper The New Vision, Amin said from his exile home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, that he had no interest in returning to Uganda.

“I’m not badly off at all,” Amin, whom The New Vision reported drives an American-made limousines, said.

He also denied recent reports in the Ugandan press that he was supporting rebels of the West Nile Bank Front in the north-west of the country.

The rebels, led by Col. Juma Oris, a former minister under Amin, are fighting for the secession of Amin’s home region, bordering Sudan and Zaire. The Ugandan government says the rebels also enjoy Sudanese government support.

“I want Museveni and the entire world to know that I have no connection with the Juma Oris group whatsoever,” Amin said in his first interview with a Ugandan paper. “I have better things to do now than leading a rebel group.”

During his rule between 1971 and 1979, Amin was portrayed as a strutting buffoon by the international media. But his regime was also murderously cruel, killing an estimated 500,000 people.

The self-declared Life President was finally routed from power in April 1979 by a combined force of the Tanzanian army and exiled Ugandans, after he invaded and occupied a strip of Tanzanian territory.

But since losing power, Amin has never been far from the headlines in the Ugandan press.

Recent speculation was that, like some of his former top lieutenants, including Vice-President Mustafa Adrisi, the ex- dictator was about to return to Kampala — invited back by Museveni, widely seen as courting voters in West Nile ahead of next year’s elections.

Besides appointing two politicians from the region as junior prime ministers — including Moses Ali, a former close Amin confidant — Museveni has encouraged West Nilers who fled the country when Amin fell to come back.

However, in the The New Vision interview, Amin said he would not accept any overtures from Museveni because the Ugandan leader had consistently insulted him.

“It would be ridiculous for people who keep calling me a buffoon and dictator to invite me back,” Amin told The New Vision.

Before his recent reported interest in luring Amin home, Museveni had early this year declared the former “Field Marshall” would be killed if he set foot in Uganda in the wake of reports he was supporting the Juma Oris rebels.

Amin said some of his former acolytes had returned to Uganda and put up with Museveni’s abuse because, unlike him, they were desperate for money.

“They call you pigs, swine, and you just laugh and clap!” Amin said of his former aides, in reference to a comment by Museveni in 1994.

“I don’t know why Museveni is always abusing me for Uganda’s problems. I left Uganda 16 years ago, but Museveni still talks about me.”

Museveni, Amin complained, never mentioned other former leaders, Milton Obote and Tito Okello, whose human rights records were also appalling.

“But all the time Amin, Amin… Is it because he fears me a lot?,” said the man who while in power called himself the Conqueror of the British Empire.

Besides his Vice-President Mustafa Adrisi, other former top Amin figures who have returned include Maj-Gen Yusuf Gowon, who was Army Chief of Staff, and Col. Wilson Toko, then chief of the airforce.

“I hear Gowon, a whole Major General, walks from his house in Ntinda (a Kampala suburb) to town and has no car,” Amin said. “Toko wants Museveni to give him money to start a computer business; what’s the use now?,”

In the interview, Amin defended his 1972 world headline- grabbing expulsion of Asians from the country. He gave the Asians, who virtually controlled the economy, 90 days to leave the country, in what he called an “Economic War,” inspired by a dream.

Amin then turned over the vast properties of the Asians to his Ugandan supporters.

The decision of the post-Amin governments — especially Museveni’s — to allow Asians back into the country and return their properties is meant to please Britain, Amin said.

Asked about his record in power, Amin, a Muslim, said he leaves “everything to Allah to judge.”

Meanwhile, Milton Obote, the man who Amin overthrew in 1971 and who then returned to govern in 1981-85, remains in exile in Lusaka, Zambia. He is silent on returning home under Museveni.

Gen. Tito Okello, the octogenarian illiterate who, while Army Commander, ousted Obote’s second government, returned to Uganda in 1993 from Tanzania.

His six-month-old military junta was kicked out by Museveni’s guerrillas in January 1986. Okello now lives with the benefits of a retired head of state.

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