Ugandans Upset Over Chavez' Kind Words for Amin

Ugandans Upset Over Chavez' Kind Words for Amin

Published November 23, 2009

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) -- Ugandan officials were offended Sunday after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez wondered out loud whether Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was truly as brutal as he was reputed to be.

There is no exact figure for the number of people killed during Amin's 1971-1979 regime but estimates range up to 500,000 people.

"We thought he was a cannibal," Chavez said on Friday, referring to Amin, whose regime was notorious for torturing and killing suspected opponents in the 1970s. "I have doubts. ... I don't know, maybe he was a great nationalist, a patriot."

Mary Karoro Okurut, spokeswoman for the ruling National Resistance Movement, said Amin was not worthy of such consideration.

"Anybody who says that Amin was good has something wrong with him," she said Sunday. "Amin was brutal. He killed many Ugandans and made many run into exile. There is something wrong with whoever praises Amin."

President Yoweri Museveni's secretary, Tamale Mirundi, pointed to Amin's record of torturing and killing opponents - including one of his wives.

"If you marry a woman and you later kill her, then you are not worth being called a good husband," he said. "That is what Amin did. Some of his ideas could have been good for Uganda, but the way he implemented them was hopeless. The way he killed Ugandans in big numbers cannot qualify him to be a nationalist."

Resident James Kizza Baliruno said Amin's soldiers made him watch as they shot his mother and father in front of him when he was 4 years old.

"It beats my understanding if one calls Amin a hero," he said.

Ugandan officials did not say whether they would take any formal diplomatic action. Venezuela has no embassy in Uganda.

Chavez has said that Venezuela is looking into energy investments in Africa.

Written by Godfrey Olukya, Associated Press

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