Amin had soft spot for Britain

Idi Amin, who has died in Saudi Arabia, was a ruthless African despot responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans.

He served in the British army and was once described by the Foreign Office as a "splendid man".

In 1925, Idi Amin Dada Oumee was born into the Kakwa tribe in Koboko, near Arua in northwest Uganda, close to the border of Congo and Sudan.

He joined the King's African Rifles of the British colonial army in 1946, serving in the Second World War against Burma and the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya 1952 to 1956.

He rose through the ranks to lieutenant and was one of only two native Ugandans to receive a commission from the British army during colonial rule.

The Queen visited the country and opened a national park in her name - the Queen Elizabeth National Park - in 1954.

In documents released by the Public Records Office in 2000, officials wrote in the 1960s: "Idi Amin is a splendid type and a good (rugby) player... but... virtually bone from the neck up, and needs things explained in words of one letter."

In 1962, Uganda won its independence and Milton Obote was declared the first Ugandan prime minister. He rose to chief of staff of Uganda's army and air force in 1966 and his support for Obote meant the first of his many torture allegations was overlooked.

Relations with Obote soured and in 1971 Amin staged a coup, declaring himself President of Uganda and head of the armed forces. Documents released by the Public Records Office 30 years later showed the Foreign Office knew of a plot to shoot Obote dead.

Tanzania accused Britain of knowing about the coup, so the British decided to hold back from publicly voicing support and encouraged Kenya to support the move. Amin was known for his admiration of Britain and his intention to establish a pro-Western government.

The Foreign Office wrote at the time: "Our prospects in Uganda have no doubt been considerably enhanced providing we take the opportunities open to us. We now have a thoroughly pro-Western set up in Uganda of which we should take prompt advantage. Amin needs our help."