He died in a Johannesburg hospital in South Africa on Monday afternoon local time.
Obote’s death was confirmed by his son.
It followed a series of strokes but the exact cause of death was not immediately known.
Obote was Uganda’s first Prime Minister after independence from
Britain before he became President.
But the post-colonial leader’s legacy has been marred by his strongarm tactics which led to his downfalls.
Today Obote is more often remembered for the brutality and repression of his second term in office in the 1980s.
The deaths of hundreds of thousands of people during a bloody civil war that marked that tenure have led to comparisons with notorious dictator Idi Amin, who overthrew Obote in a 1971 coup d’etat.
Amin died in Saudi Arabia two years ago, also in exile and also reviled by many in his native land.
Obote harbored desires to return home right up until his death but he retained leadership of his the UPC, which is part of the country’s fractured opposition.
A shrewd political operative, Obote first maneuvered his way into power in 1962 after striking an unlikely alliance with the Kabaka Yekka (King’s Party) of the powerful Baganda tribe to form independent Uganda’s first government.
As executive vice president under the titular presidency of Baganda monarch Sir Edward Mutesa, better known as “King Freddie,” Obote clashed frequently with his partners as he voiced a particularly pro-communist line.
The coalition unravelled in 1967 when Obote declared himself president a year after unilaterally abrogating the constitution and replacing it with one giving the executive nearly absolute power.
He incurred the wrath of many by ruling large swathes of the country under draconian emergency laws adopted with the abolishing of the limited powers of the traditional leaders of Uganda’s five tribal kingdoms.
Obote’s socialist policies also made him anathema to the West and when army chief Idi Amin overthrew him in 1971 while he attended a summit of Commonwealth heads of state in Singapore, few were initially concerned.
But Amin, who concealed ruthlessness with buffoonery while torturing and murdering 500,000 real and imagined opponents before being overthrown in 1979, proved worse and there were few tears shed when he was ousted.
Obote, who spent the Amin years in exile in Tanzania, returned to Uganda on May 27, 1980, and won disputed general elections a few months later to become president for a second time as the country hoped for a final end to turmoil.
Yet his return to the presidency proved not to be peaceful as a rebellion, led by Uganda’s current president Yoweri Museveni, rose up to contest the rule of Obote whose agents were accused of repression and torture of political foes.
An estimated 300,000 people were killed in the fighting which finally
resulted in Obote’s ouster in 1985 and his departure into exile once more, this time in Zambia, where he lived for the past two decades.
Museveni, who assumed the Ugandan presidency in 1986, has been a fierce enemy of Obote’s for years and has many times directly accused the former leader and his army of being responsible for the deaths.
Obote and his UPC party staunchly denied the charges, maintaining that Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA) was responsible for most of the deaths and unjustified accusations.
They had long fought for his return home and just months before Obote’s death, his son said his father still wanted to return to Uganda from Zambia to challenge Museveni.
Born December 28, 1924, in northern Uganda, the pipe-smoking Obote was expelled from university in Kampala in the late 1940s for leading a student strike and took a job as a construction worker in Kenya.
A naturally skilled orator, he later returned to Uganda and joined the
independence movement there and became a member of the colonial legislative council in 1957.