The Last King of Scotland

Tuesday, 16 September, 2014

“His Excellency, President for Life Field Marshall Al Hadj Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC. Lord of all the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular welcomes the Court of Kampala and assembled worthies of the city to this his annual banquet.”

So recites a Ugandan official at the annual Ambassadors’ Dinner as remembered by Nicholas Garrigan, Amin’s personal physician, in Giles Foden‘s novel, The Last King of Scotland. What makes the book so readable is that it succeeds in making the incredible — life in a country run by a monster named Idi Amin — credible.

The Last King of Scotland Human rights groups estimate 400,000 people were killed under Amin’s rule. They included farmers, fishermen, students, soldiers, former and serving cabinet ministers, supreme court judges, diplomats, university rectors, educators, Roman Catholic and Anglican clergy, hospital directors, surgeons, bankers, tribal leaders and business executives. Among the foreign victims, one name, Dora Bloch, a 73-year-old Israeli woman, is worth remembering because it helps us focus on so much of the evil that accompanied Amin through his days in power to his deathbed in Saudi Arabia.

On 27 June 1976, seven terrorists, five Palestinians and two members of the German Baader-Meinhof gang, hijacked Air France flight 139 after it left Tel Aviv for Paris. The plane landed first in Libya and then continued, arriving at Entebbe in Uganda early on 28 June. Amin visited the hijacked passengers and then flew to Mauritius where an Organization of African Unity meeting was taking place and where he would hand over the presidency of the body. After making his final address, he flew back to Kampala. He was there when, on the morning of 4 July, Israeli commandos — having flown 2,300 miles — landed, killed the hijackers, rescued 102 hostages and destroyed eight Ugandan Air Force Migs. One of the hostages, Dora Bloch, had been hospitalised in Kampala and the only option for retaliation open to Amin was to drag her from her sick bed and have her killed. For his collusion with the hijackers, Amin was rewarded with the presence of Yasser Arafat at his fifth wedding. Indeed, Arafat was best man.

And then there’s Libya. New of Amin’s death reached the world on the very day that Libya formally accepted responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people. For those keeping a ledger, it should be noted that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was first to give refuge to Amin after he was forced out of Uganda. Amin’s next stop was Iraq, where Saddam Hussein extended his nation’s hospitality and then, in 1979, he settled in Saudi Arabia, where he was fixed up with a splendid seaside villa in the Red Sea port of Jiddah.

Because he was a convert to Islam, the Saudis were particularly fond of him and he earned enormous respect from the kingdom’s theocrats for his attempts to create an Islamic nation out of a country that was only about six percent Muslim at the time of his take-over. That he had murdered tens of thousands of Christians in the process was seen as proof of his “goodness”.

Arafat, Gaddafi, Saddam, the Saudis… all able associates of Idi Amin, “Lord of all the Beasts of the Earth”.

Filed in: Scotland

Comments (1)

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  1. Kevin H says:

    Amazing how often Saudi Arabia is implicated as a problem – notably re 9/11. There is little hope for meaningful progress in the middle east morass without excavation of the Saudi ‘s role in fermenting problems.