This story is certainly an odd one: buckle up! Sarah Kyolaba was the fifth, and allegedly favorite wife, of former Ugandan President Idi Amin Dada. His rule was characterized by political repression, human rights abuses, nepotism, extrajudicial killings, and ethnic persecution. The number of those killed as a result of his regime range anywhere from a conservative estimate of 100,000 – up to a more realistic approximation of 500,000 victims.
So, where do you meet a man like Idi? Sarah Kyolaba was born in Uganda in 1955. She ended up meeting Idi at nineteen-years-old when she worked as a go-go dancer in the Revolutionary Suicide Mechanised Regiment Band of the Ugandan Army. As a result of this affiliation, she earned the nickname “Suicide Sarah”. When they met, however, Sarah had been in a relationship with a different man and became pregnant with his child. Sarah married Idi in 1975 in the Ugandan city of Kampala, and he claimed the child as his own. Though he was old enough to be her father, they went on to have three of their own children together.
When Amin was forced into exile in 1979, Sarah joined him. In 1982 the couple eventually split up. Sarah moved to Germany and began work as a lingerie model. Later, moving to London, she ran a café in West Ham in the late 1990s. After a period of time, environmental health inspectors shut it down as they found it housed mice and cockroaches in the kitchen. She was able to avoid jail by pleading guilty; Sarah received a two-year conditional discharge and was made to pay £1,000 towards prosecution costs.
When Sarah learned of Idi’s death in 2003, disagreeing with the majority of the world, she hailed him a “true African hero” and “not a monster” but a “jolly person, very entertaining and kind”. Sarah herself eventually died of cancer while living in London at age 59. Fascinatingly, at the time of her death she was quietly running a hair salon in Tottenham – from go-go dancing to the position of First Lady, to a lingerie model, café owner, and hairdresser; Sarah Kyolaba had quite a colorful life.