'Idi Amin actor' passes on aged 70

The Late Joseph Olita in recent years. [Photo: File/Standard]

Siaya, Kenya: The man who acted as former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada in the popular film Rise and Fall of Idi Amin has died at the age of 70.

Joseph Olita died suddenly at his rural home in South East Alego at Kogelo on Sunday morning hours after the funeral of his mother.

A close relative Risper Odero said he succumbed to high blood pressure which worsened after his mother’s burial on Saturday.

Olita had returned from Uganda, where he has been living, last week to bury his mother.

Ms Odero said Olita’s death was a big blow to the family coming less than 24 hours after the burial of his mother. A funeral committee has been set up in his home village chaired by the South Alego Ward representative Joshua Osuri.

The towering man, who during his prime stood at six feet 5.5 inches and weighed 150kg, bore a striking to resemblance to the late Idi Amin.

He will be remembered as one of Kenya’s outstanding film stars for not only his sterling role Rise and Fall of Idi Amin, but also in other movies that he featured in prominently. Rise and fall of Idi Amin premiered in Kenya in 1981.

The movie detailed the controversial actions and atrocities blamed on the former dictator of Uganda, after his violent rise to power in 1971 until his overthrow in 1979.

Olita during the filming of The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin (1981).

But apart from just acting in the Rise and Fall of Idi Amin, Olita also acted as Amin in another movie,  Mississippi Masala in 1991. He also performed as the First Policeman in another movie, Sheena in 1984.

Rise and Fall of Idi Amin was a co-production of the United Kingdom, Kenya and Nigeria, with most of filming done in Kenya. It was produced less than a year after Amin’s fall and was directed by Sharad Patel.

Strangely, the man who even passers-by referred to as Idi Amin due to his resemblance to the late Ugandan had a burning desire to meet the real Idi Amin.

Never responded

“I would like to meet Amin who, despite his reputation, has a lot to do with my fame today,” he told the The Standard in an interview in 2001.

He added: “Believe me, I would like to meet Idi Amin...Way back when we were shooting the film, I wrote him a letter requesting a meeting with him. He never responded. Perharps he got it, perhaps he did not.”

Just what was Olita’s take on the Rise and Fall of Idi Amin?

“The film is great, there is no doubt about it, but all filmmakers in the world like to exaggerate a little. For instance, there were claims that Amin killed and ate his own son and even chopped one of his wives. I really don’t think this was the case,” Olita told The Standard.

The late Olita, who is survived by a widow and several children, schooled at Pap Oriang Primary School before joining St Mary’s School Yala where he was an active drama club member.

After completing his secondary education, Olita worked at Brooke Bond Company in Kericho and Union Carbide in Nakuru before venturing into the film industry.

Prior to his death Olita lived in Uganda where he sold electrical appliances.