Goodbye, Major Bob
The Guardian belatedly today reported the funeral of Bob Astles, an ex-British soldier who went to Uganda as a colonial officer, building roads. He married a Ugandan, set up an air transport company and, with interruptions in jail as he fell in and out favour, worked for both Presidents Milton Obote and Idi Amin.
His activities have never been throroughly investigated, but he knew how to make himself useful to whoever was No.1 and during my years in Uganda, and subsequently, he was a useful go-to guy. For example, he flew me in his light aircraft when I needed transport to cover the visit of Britain's Princess Margaret. More tellingly, when I needed confirmation that white mercenaries were heading from Congo to Uganda it turned out that "Major Bob" (aka the White Rat) was the only person in the country - including the top brass in the Uganda army - who had a two-way radio powerful enough to get reliable information.
In one sense, Astles was a one-off, but I have also found someone like him in almost every African country I have visited: a Brit who becomes a local fixture and who identifies completely with the country of his adoption. I support the way he backed Africa. The trouble was he was indiscriminate and didn't bother to distinguish between good Ugandans and bad Ugandans.blog comments powered by Disqus