Sites and Sounds of Uganda
Bob Astles Joins Idi Amin DadaPublish Date: Feb 13, 2013
Bob Astles Joins Idi Amin Dada
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Robert Asketill aka Bob Astles(L) worked as government advsisor during Aminis regime
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By Titus Kakembo

 
Uganda boasts of a vibrant press, unfortunately amidst the ongoing media frenzy, some things go unnoticed. One of them was, the death of Idi Amin’s self-styled British adviser in south London, during the Christmas festive season.
 
In keeping with his wishes, Robert Asketill aka Bob Astles portrayed as an inspiration for the British doctor adviser, in Giles Foden's celebrated novel ‘The Last King of Scotland’ –was cremated before most of his friends, inlaws in Buganda or neighbours in London learnt about his death from cancer.
 
It was only five people who attended the vigil and they will not talk about it. One neighbour, asked to confirm the death and suffered having the phone slummed down on. This leaves Ugandans wondering
weather, that was the way for a man who was once a fellow citizen – to go.
 
The demise prompted Ahmed Katerega of Bukedde to post on his social media, “BOB ASTLES DEAD! Forumists, my condolences go to Mrs. Senkatuuka Astles, former Permanent Secretary, Office of the
President, in charge of Religious Affairs, and widow to the late Maj. Bob Astles, who has passed away.” 
Adding that, “A lot was said about Bob Astles and the late Akena Adoko told us how he (Bob) befriended
the then Defence Minister Felix Onama, whom he used to fly in a helcopter and for whom he could pick a girl.”
 
Down in the New Vision Group of Companies documentation center while leafing through a collection of Drum Magazines I could not miss to see a photograph of Idi Amin being, mysteriously lifted by white men on a chair, to earn Conqueror Of The British empire title.
 
In his book  ‘From Obote to Obote’ Akena Adoko attributes Bob Astles to having mobilised the Britisih and other Europeans to do the lifting of the chairman of OAU (Idi Amin) during the 12th ordinary summit which sat in Kampala in 1975.
 
The gesture was popularly branded the "white man's burden!” As it that was not enough, Astles went one step further to have his face traditionally etched with three strokes as a member of the Kakwa tribe.
 
When Idi Amin fled to exile in ‘79 Astles was imprisoned for six years. He stayed in touch with his friend (Amin) until the tyrant's death in 2003. In between, Astles was imprisoned, for six years in Luzira maximum Prison.
 
Although derogatively labelled "the White Rat" because of his allegiance to the dictator who murdered about 300,000 of his fellow citizens over eight years of a regime, he died without regrets for associating with the bloodsoaked president Idi Amin.
 
"He said that he did what he had to do. He did say he was a terrible person to work for," Gombya tells us. And the reaction? "Many say 'good, let him join Idi Amin'."
 
Like hard luck would have it, Astles later returned to Britain, but remained close to a Ugandan living and working in the UK, Henry Gombya, the editor of the London Evening Post was partially quoted.
 
Often baptized the “White Rat of Uganda” for his supposed complicity in some of the worst atrocities committed against Uganda’s people under Idi Amin’s regime in the 1970s, Bob Astles was an odd figure, much of whose life remains veiled in obscurity. 
 
A would-be adventurer without an adventure in which to engage, in many ways he seemed to be a zombie that just walked out of the pages of a Steven King novel. He would almost certainly have remained obscure were it not for his chance association with one of Uganda’s nastiest dictators.
 
 
 
Who was Astles?
 
He was born in Ashford, Kent, but left the United Kingdom aged 21 to serve as a colonial officer in Africa. He was sent to Kampala in 1949 on special duties and fell in love with Buganda, a kingdom he had been
sent into to put some sense into the Baganda elders who were giving the colonial office administrative problems.
 
After attainment of independence in 1962, Astles remained and worked for Milton Obote, (The first Prime Minister) until he was overthrown by Gen Idi Amin in 1971. 
 
As civil servants who worked under Obote fled the wrath of Idi Amin, he stayed. He was briefly imprisoned for a month, but ended up joining them (Amin’s government) as a government adviser.
 
During the economic war, Astles was assigned the duty to contain smuggling and corruption. It was during this time that he became so dreaded by Kibanda Boys (businessmen) and kase (coffee smugglers)
whose boats he often rammed and sank when he nabbed on smuggling errands on Lake Victoria.
 
After Amin was overthrown, Astles was charged with murder but was acquitted by the Uganda High Court. There was no evidence, for the court to pin him for murdering anyone. 
Like luck would have it, instead of setting him free, the new Ugandan government (Obote 11)
threw Astles into prison and he was released after that government itself had been overthrown in 1985.
 
On his release from prison, Bob was declared persona-non-grata in Uganda. But it was difficult to find a country to deport him to as he had given up his British citizenship and became a Ugandan. After negotiations between the British Foreign, Commonwealth Office and the Ugandan government, the British Government agreed to restore his British citizenship and he returned to Britain where he has stayed until his death on December 29, 2012.
 
 

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