Sarah Kyolaba Amin, the fifth wife of the late former president Idi Amin, died in the United Kingdom on June 11.
Details of the cause of death are not clear but media sources last week quoted contacts in London as saying she had developed a large tumour and had lost a considerable amount of weight in recent months, suggesting a kind of cancer.
She had been a go-go dancer with the Revolutionary Suicide Mechanised Regiment Band based in Masaka in the early 1970s but was largely an unknown public figure other than that. She was nicknamed “Suicide Sarah” by the band members.
It was only on December 25, 1974, that a Radio Uganda announcement stated that Araba, a girl recently born to Sarah Kyolaba, was a daughter of president Amin.
In July 1975, she and Amin were wedded in a ceremony that cost over £2 million (about Shs10 billion today) during the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit in Kampala.
The chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Yasser Arafat, was Amin’s Bestman on the occasion.
President Amin cut the wedding cake with a sword.
Suddenly she became a public figure. She started to appear at public events with Amin, attended Basketball and Boxing matches with him and was his co-driver and navigator at one or two motor rallies, most of the time she dressed in T-shirts and jeans.
Before that, she had been in a relationship with another member of the Marines Jazz Band, Jesse Gitta. After her relationship with Amin developed, she and her boyfriend Gitta broke up.
Details of what happened to Gitta are unclear but a source said he went to Kenya after the 1979 war and died shortly after.
At the height of the anti-Amin propaganda, some books reported that Amin had Gitta beheaded, his head kept in a fridge at one of Amin’s residences.
After the fall of Amin’s regime in April 1979, Sarah fled to Libya with him and the others in the entourage.
She briefly went to Saudi Arabia with Amin but relocated to West Germany in 1982 claiming political asylum. Knowing the international image of Amin, she played into it by claiming her life was in danger.
“Freedom from him [Amin] and for my daughter is all that counts now,” she said after arriving in Germany. “I just want a new start. I don’t have any friends where I live.”
In Germany, she tried her hand at modelling lingerie, that failed, and moved to London where she took over a restaurant in 1997 in Forest Gate, serving Ugandan food that became popular with the Ugandan community there.
The restaurant was called Krishna’s Restaurant.
When it failed to meet London’s safety standards it was shut down in 1997 and re-opened later after inspection.
In 1999, she was fined £1,000 by a judge at the Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London, after her restaurant was once again found to be unhygienic. It had become infested with mice and cockroaches.
The claims were that Amin had forcefully seized her from Gitta and she, fearing for her life, had agreed to get married to him in order to save her life.
However, when Amin died in August 2003, Sarah Kyolaba paid tribute to him saying he was “a good man, a good husband, a loving father and a great grandfather.”
Her Facebook page featured a photo of herself with Amin.
Sarah Kyolaba Amin had been a go-go dancer with the Revolutionary Suicide Mechanised Regiment Band based in Masaka in the early 1970s but was an unknown public figure largely. She was nicknamed “Suicide Sarah” by the band members.