Tuesday 19 August 2003

Idi Amin - The Last Word

From an article in the Sydney Morning Herald :
Allan Hogan recalls interviewing the murderous former dictator of Uganda, who was buried in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

I met Idi Amin in 1975 when I travelled to Uganda with cameraman David Brill on assignment for ABC's Four Corners. By then Amin had appointed himself "president for life", and his murderous regime had been responsible for the deaths of up to 300,000 people.

Our arrival followed on the heels of a French documentary team who had made Amin the laughing stock of Europe.

One hilarious scene in the French film showed him talking to the animals, like Dr Doolittle, as he cruised the shores of Lake Victoria in the presidential barge. Another scene showed him presiding over a cabinet meeting in which one minister appeared to question a presidential decision. The minister's body was found floating in the river the next day.

A short, portly Englishman sporting a New Zealand rugby tie met us on arrival at Entebbe airport. He was Bob Astles, described by one of Amin's biographers as the tyrant's "professional lapdog".

We were the first Western journalists to visit Uganda since the French crew (Amin had expelled the rest), and Astles warned us that a death sentence had been handed down against them, in absentia.

After our first night in Kampala we were met by Astles to begin our guided tour. When I reported I had not been able to call Sydney from my hotel room he said that he was aware of my problem.

"We executed the telephonist this morning. We don't like that kind of incompetence."

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