Mama A Chumaru, the birth name Sarah Kyolaba, was a Ugandan dancer and dictator Idi Amin’s fifth and favorite wife.
Her marriage to Idi Amin thrust her into the spotlight and was quite a prominent figure during Amin’s regime.
As first lady, she commanded attention, lived in splendor, met dignitaries, and was even granted an audience with the pope.
20 years after Idi Amin’s death, and eight years after the death of his last-surviving widow, Mama A Chumaru, we take a closer look at her life.
The late Mama A Chumaru lived a life of extravagance and tumult in equal measure.
Alongside her husband, she had stints in exile in Libya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Germany.
She divorced Amin in 1982 and sought asylum in Germany and later in the United Kingdom amid concerns for her safety and the deteriorating situation in Amin’s brutal and oppressive regime.
While her close association with Amin’s regime drew criticism from some quarters, Mama A Chumaru became an outspoken critic of the atrocities and human rights violations committed by her husband.
So who is Mama A Chumaru? Here are notable aspects of her life before her demise in 2015.
- Real name: Sarah Kyolaba Tatu Namutebi
- Nickname: Mama A Chumaru
- Stage name: “Suicide Sarah”
- Gender: Female
- Born: 1955
- Died: June 11, 2015
- Cause of death: Cancer
- Age: 60 years (as of 2015)
- Place of birth: Mulago, Kampala, Uganda.
- Hometown: Mulago.
- Nationality: Ugandan
- Ethnicity: Black
- Hair color: Black
- Eye color: Black
- Mother: Aisha Nsubuga
- Father: Haji Kamadi
- Spouse: Idi Amin Dada Oumee (Married 1975; Died August 16, 2003)
- Children: 4
- Occupation: Dancer, Entrepreneur, First Lady of Uganda
Not much is known about her, but Mama A Chumaru, birth name Sarah Kyolaba, was born in 1955 in Mulago Hospital, Kampala Uganda, to Ugandan parents, Haji Kamadi and Aisha Nsubuga.
She was raised and attended school in her hometown, Mulago.
Her marriage to Idi Amin
Mama A Chumaru met Idi Amin in 1975. At the time, she was just a 19-year-old go-go dancer affiliated with an army band called the Revolutionary Suicide Mechanised Regiment.
Her prolific skills in the band had her nicknamed “Suicide Sarah.” Idi Amin, on the other hand, was a senior military officer who had recently seized power in a coup d’état.
The couple, despite the age difference, developed a relationship, and Amin later took her as his fifth wife.
The couple initially got married in a private ceremony, but a televised wedding banquet – estimated to cost $2.4 million – was staged in July 1975.
The wedding coincided with the annual Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit in Kampala, and Yasser Arafat (former chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization) was Idi Amin’s best man.
As the first lady of Uganda – a role she held between 1975 to 1979 – Sarah Kyolaba changed her name to Mama A Chumaru (which means Mother of Chumaru) as an homage to her firstborn son.
She enjoyed many privileges at the helm, including numerous state visits and ceremonial duties.
It is also believed that she played a significant role in Amin’s life at the time, and was quite influential in his decision-making while in power.
Chumaru’s Family Life
Mama A Chumaru and Idi Amin had 4 children, one of whom it is claimed she had with her former lover and fiance.
When the baby was born (December 25, 1974), however, Amin notoriously declared it as his own and even had a televised announcement.
Controversially, the fiance, who had objected to Amin’s actions, disappeared mysteriously, with reports claiming he died in a car crash.
Mama A Chumaru’s Life in London
When Mama A Chumaru officially divorced Amin in 1982, she sought asylum in Germany and took one of her four kids – Faisal Wangita – with her.
She tried lingerie modeling in Germany but later moved to London, England.
In 1997, she set up Krishna’s Restaurant in West Ham, but local public health inspectors closed it down briefly citing hygiene reasons.
To avoid jail, she pleaded guilty and had to pay a $1200 fine. She kept a private life thereafter and was only focused on family.
At the time of her death, Mama A Chumaru was running a modest hair salon in Tottenham, North London, and lived near Palmers Green.
- Mama A Chumaru was first and foremost a dancer before she met Idi Amin.
- She tried a lingerie modeling career in Germany and appeared in Cologne’s Fashion Show.
- Mama A Chumaru became the first lady of Uganda in 1975 and had access to the helms of power.
- Soon after seeking asylum in the UK, she became an avid critic of Idi Amin’s oppressive regime, with a special focus on the human rights abuses her husband committed between 1971 and 1979.
- Although not well documented, there are occasional reports that Mama A Chumaru was involved in human rights and advocacy work and was committed to the path of justice.
- Mama A Chumaru had a host of state visits as first lady and was once granted an audience with the pope.
Anyone who has worked with an oppressive regime is almost always going to face criticism, and Mama A Chumaru didn’t find that out differently.
Her association with Idi Amin – considered one of the most brutal despots in recent history – drew the aire of most.
Reports suggest that she had a voice in the regime but notably abated the atrocities of a regime marked by torture, extrajudicial killings, and widespread human rights abuses.
Mama A Chumaru succumbed to cancer-related complications on June 11, 2015, at the Royal Free Hospital in the UK.
Her body was laid to rest in Ssanda – Nakawuka, Kampala.
Mama A Chumaru died on June 11, 2015, in a London Hospital.
Her demise marked the end of a mixed chapter in Ugandan history, but also cast a spotlight once again on the despotic regime of Idi Amin.
Her life as a wife, mother, and first lady was intertwined with the lawlessness of a dictator, but her brave decision to abandon Amin in 1982 and seek asylum elsewhere demonstrated her willingness to leave behind a dark past and embark on a just course for the betterment of society.