On April 11, 1979, Tanzanian troops and Ugandan exiles stormed Kampala and ousted the
man who had become known as “the Hitler of Africa,” Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Now Amin, whose eight-year reign of terror included the brutal slayings of perhaps as many as 300,000 of his countrymen, lives in exile in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Because his Saudi hosts have neutralized him politically and accepted him only because he is a Moslem, Amin, 58, rarely sees anyone but his 23 children and one of his four wives. Despite his isolation, he claims that he will regain power with the help of loyal supporters, who he says are based mainly in the northwest Ugandan town of Koboko. In a recent interview by telephone from Bahrain with correspondent Aly Mahmoud, Amin declared: “I am confident that with a little help I can crush my enemies. I have more than 100,000 men ready to carry arms for me.”
Amin now lives in a modest villa, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Jeddah. Because his personal savings are frozen in a Barclay’s Bank account
in Kampala, the Saudis provide him with a generous allowance. Still, the deposed dictator is dissatisfied with their hospitality. Complained Amin: “The money I get from the Saudi government goes mostly to my people, who need food and medicine. What is left is not sufficient for me and my family.” Meanwhile, the Saudis guard his house, but Amin enjoys freedom of movement. Observers have reported seeing the hulking six-foot, four-inch, 280-lb. man, often in traditional white robes, wandering aimlessly through the streets of Jeddah, carrying a satchel stuffed with military charts and maps. He told Maclean’s that he had met with a “defence council,” which “came here to devise a plan for my return home,” but his underlying tone is one of desolation: “I need money, arms and political support, and no one is giving me anything.”
Amin vows that he will return in glory to his country in response to the “voice of my own people.” He admitted that “certain excesses” might have occurred during his regime and he now pledges to restore democracy and ensure that “no brutalities, no torture and no crimes are committed by anyone” in Uganda. “Allah will reward me with success,” he insisted. “It is only a matter of time.” -ROBIN WRIGHT in Beirut, with Aly Mahmoud in Bahrain.
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