Milton Obote, 80, Uganda's first prime minister and a two-time president, was remembered Tuesday as an outstanding leader by some Ugandans, but others blamed him for the deaths of as many as a half-million people and said they would not mourn him.
Mr. Obote, whose initial term ended with a coup led by Idi Amin, died Oct. 10 at a hospital in Johannesburg, said Henry Mayega, secretary-general of Mr. Obote's Ugandan People's Congress. Mr. Obote had been living in exile in Zambia.
The son of a chief and farmer in the Langi tribal area of northern Uganda, Mr. Obote won his first legislative seat in 1958. A year later, he formed the Uganda People's Congress.
He was Uganda's first prime minister after independence in 1962. At the time, Uganda was ruled by King Mutesa II.
In 1966, Mr. Obote staged a coup against the king and declared himself president. He later instituted a socialist system and used arbitrary detentions and extrajudicial executions to maintain power.
Mr. Obote escaped imprisonment and the threat of death in 1971 because he was at a commonwealth meeting in Singapore when Idi Amin, an army commander and a trusted aide, seized control.
During Amin's tyrannical rule, Mr. Obote lived in neighboring Tanzania, protected but kept publicly silent by his friend, then-President Julius K. Nyerere.
Nyerere's soldiers, supporting Ugandan rebels, helped drive Amin from power in Kampala in April 1979, clearing the way for Mr. Obote's return.
After a disputed election in 1980 returned Mr. Obote to power, current President Yoweri Museveni raised an army and fought a civil war against Mr. Obote from 1980 to 1985, another period in Ugandan history known for repression and mass executions of civilians.
Mr. Obote was ousted in another coup in 1985. Museveni took power by force in 1986. Museveni's government estimates that more than a half-million civilians died from 1980 to 1985 when Mr. Obote tried to force everyone out of rural areas and into cities.
In 1984, then-Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Elliot Abrams said the situation under Mr. Obote was horrendous.
Mr. Obote never returned to Uganda after he fled first to Kenya in 1985 and then to Zambia, where fellow independence leader Kenneth Kaunda granted him exile.
Mr. Obote was married and had five children.