Some book recommendations

Gavin writes:

One account of the nightmare years that really should be in the bibliography is Wycliffe Kato’s harrowing account of his imprisonment in Nakasero in the wake of the Entebbe Raid. This was first published in Granta 22, in 1987 (available from<> and an expanded version of the narrative was published as Escape from Idi Amin’s Slaughterhouse, by Quartet Books in 1989 (available on Amazon at least). Horrifying, gripping, and occasionally hilarious, it is an absolute must-read for anybody interested in the history of Uganda, the nature of life under a reign of terror, or the triumph of the human spirit over the worst of human nature. I felt that it would make a superb play or short film, and somebody with more influence than I evidently had the same idea, as it was broadcast by the BBC in 1991 as part of the Play on One series ( I personally feel that John Okech should be awarded the George Cross for his part in covering the escape of his comrades, all of whom successfully fled the country.

David Martin’s ‘General Amin’, originally published in 1974 and updated several times during the decade is a useful, if particularly difficult read – some of the very worst accounts of Amin’s outrages that I’ve ever encountered came from its pages. Travelling through the Namanve Forest on the way out of Kampala had its uncomfortable moments when thinking of what took place there during my lifetime.

Riccardo Orizio’s Talk of the Devil (Walker & Company, 2003) includes an account of a rare meeting with Amin in Saudi Arabia.

On a more humorous note, Alan Coren’s Amin sketches, originally published in Punch, and republished in book form as The Collected Bulletins and the Further Bulletins of Idi Amin are essential, if highly non-PC. They were published by Salamander in the mid-70s and now seem to be out of print, but widely available secondhand – Amazon have both comfortably in stock as I write. Some are available online here:

About half an hour’s worth of this insanity was recorded by John Bird in 1975 as The Collected Broadcasts of Idi Amin, and has been rereleased on CD several times. A Ugandan friend, who survived two direct encounters with Amin, in Mulago Hospital, told me that Bird got the accent almost spot-on, he was just a little too fast. Richard Pryor’s turn as Amin shouldn’t be forgotten either: Humour is a very useful weapon against tyrants, and the Internet didn’t exist in the 1970s to give Uganda the lever to intimidate people employed in recent months by the DPRK.

A most interesting account of the fall of Amin from the military perspective was given by Col. Bernard Rwehururu, in Cross to the Gun, part of which was serialised by The Monitor of Kampala, and can be found online here: Barbet Schroeder’s documentary is widely available in DVD stores throughout the country – one of the few ways in which the dark days of the 1970s were publicly acknowledged. On the subject of films, The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin, for all its lurid nature and low production values, does see some good acting on the part of Joseph Olita – about the only really watchable aspect of the film. Too bad it wound up relegating a nation’s misery to the level of a video nasty.

I didn’t find the compilation of Drum articles that you mentioned, but I did find, in a large Nakumatt, a similar volume containing articles from the magazine dealing with the country from the 1960s through the 1980s, entitled Uganda: The Bloodstained Pearl of Africa, and its Search for Peace. I must say that I found the security in Aristoc to be extraordinary, even having to surrender my copy of your book as they had copies for sale on the shelves, never mind my rucksack. A metal detector is in place at the door. One certainly didn’t get such treatment at any of the electronic shops in the city


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