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Out of Africa: Idi Amin Apparently Returning to Exile Home

January 19, 1989 GMT

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, who was treated as a pariah and put under virtual house arrest during a two-week trip to Africa, apparently was headed back to his exile home in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

Amin left Saudi Arabia early this month and officials there reportedly said he had abused their hospitality and would not be allowed to return.

But reliable sources said Thursday that Moroccan King Hassan II persuaded Saudi Arabia to allow Amin to return to his villa refuge in Jiddah.

The sources in the Zairean capital of Kinshasa said he left that city Wednesday aboard a flight for Saudi Arabia, where he lived since his overthrow in 1979.

Officials in Zaire would not confirm Amin’s departure, and there was no word from Saudi authorities that he had landed there.

The 61-year-old Amin, who ruled Uganda in 1971-79, once was hailed by many Africans as the ″champion of the underdog.″

But the burly 6-foot-2 former heavyweight boxing champion, whose alleged hand in widespread atrocities earned him the epithets ″Butcher of Kampala″ and ″Black Hitler,″ was shunned during his trip to Africa. Uganda requested his extradition to face murder charges.

Amin arrived in Zaire on a false Zairean passport Jan. 3, and officials there kept him under virtual house arrest.

Last week, the nation expelled Amin to Senegal as an embarrassment to Zaire President Sese Seko Mobutu. Zairean officials also said they feared Amin’s continued presence would bruise relations with neighboring Uganda.

But Amin was sent back to Kinshasa after being denied permission to board a Saudi flight because he did not have a proper entry visa.

Meantime, Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister Tarcis Kabwegyere said his government had asked Zaire to extradite Amin to face charges involving alleged atrocities.

″We had sent in our request to Zaire asking the authorities there to have Amin brought back here so that he can face trial in court for the crimes he committed during his tenure,″ the minister told The Associated Press in Kampala, the Ugandan capital.

The foreign minister said a Ugandan delegation was dispatched to Zaire to discuss the fate of Amin, but he declined to comment on how the envoys were received or whether relations between the two nations might be affected.

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There is no extradition treaty between the nations.

Uganda’s state newspaper, New Vision, said Tuesday that Amin’s extradition would be ″a significant milestone in African politics.″

Uganda is sharply critical of African leaders who wooed Amin while there was evidence of widespread brutality in his name.

Earlier this week, Arab diplomats in Saudi Arabia told The Associated Press Amin had abused the kingdom’s hospitality and would be barred from returning.

As of Thursday, there was no official comment from Saudi Arabia, which granted Amin political asylum in 1980.

Amin captured popular support in his East African nation when he expelled some 50,000 Asians, turning their homes, jobs and businesses over to black countrymen.

He also won the backing of Islamic countries such as Libya and Saudi Arabi for promoting the Moslem faith in his Christian-dominated land.

But Amnesty International, a London-based human rights watchdog body, estimates that between 50,000 and 300,000 Ugandans disappeared during Amin’s rule.

Since his overthrow, Amin often has bragged that he would rule Uganda again and has contacted several African leaders he once befriended, asking them to invite him to their countries. The appeals have been ignored.