The Last King of Scotland

Giles Foden lived in Uganda during the Idi Amin years, he went to live there after I had left. He wrote ‘The Last King of Scotland’ <a href=”book“> on which the award winning<a href=”film“> by the same name is based. It is a widely held belief that the doctor, Idi Amin’s personal physician, Nicholas Garrigan, is based on a real life character, usually Bob Astles. I have even read that the character is a composite of three real life characters, and it has been considered that 2 of ‘the carriers’ (the men carrying Idi Amin in the famous sedan chair image) may have been the others (my father included). The truth is, I think, that three main characters in the film are based on the three main characters in the book. You see film is not that close to the book!

There was no connection whatsoever between the character Nicholas Garrigan and my father in either the film or the book as indicated in one of the film reviews on Amazon:

‘I only learned after the fact that James McAvoy’s character is entirely fictional. This is a shame because the film might have made a superb primer to the history, culture and personality of the region had The Last King Of Scotland shown life in Amin’s government from the perspective from someone who had actually been there’

However, contrary to the above reviewer’s opinion, I do think that if you want to get an insight about how it actually felt to live in Uganda during that time, then the film and book really are good for that. The fear I felt watching the film was really like the fear I felt living in Uganda at that time.

Other reviews I have read of the film also support this view (see below).

As far as possible I would like to make this site factual, there is far too much sensationalism and exaggeration around Idi Amin and his killing machine. The truth and the facts are bad enough, no enhancement is necessary. The reason why I mention Giles Foden’s book and the film are purely for you to have an understanding of the ‘atmosphere’ of fear which existed at that time and what the country was like. As some of the reviews I have read have recognised:

‘this film has great scenery and characters and accurately depicts the clothes, buildings and vehicles of the time and place it is set’ and the film ‘brings 1970s Uganda to pulsating life, perfectly recreating that tumultuous era’.

I plan to write about the ‘experience’ of living in and being raised in Uganda before, during and in the aftermath of Idi Amin’s era over the next few years, using the oral histories of friends, family and acquaintances.

Henry Kyemba was a Minister in Amin’s government. He wrote an account <a href=”the book“>’A State of Blood’ based on his memories of the years 1972 – 1977. He fled Uganda before my father went missing, and there is no account from him on my fathers death. He notes that ‘The history of Uganda will be an oral one’ and that his book is ‘only a begining’. During the course of my research I will also contact Henry Kyemba, however I recommend his book to those of you who would wish to read a more factual account of the Amin era. If you read this book you will certainly come to understand that no embellishment or  sensationalism could make the bare facts more horrifying. As with the shocking truth about the holocaust, the truth about Idi Amin’s Killing Machine is, in its nakedness, far more frightening than fantasy. It the stuff of nightmares, and worse than what most normal people would be capable of imagining.

Henry Kyemba’s book  is out of print, there are only second hand editions available for sale (at over £50). You would be better requesting this book through your local library (ISBN: 0-441-78524-4). Isn’t it amazing how one can buy, new, the fiction (The last King of Scotland) for £4.99, yet the truth is almost unaffordable!

I have to also say, most importantly, that this was Uganda then. I have been back several times over the past few years, and Uganda is once again, the wonderful home land I missed so much for nearly 30 years. I actually feel safer there than in Bradford where I have worked during the last decade, before my illness in 2007.

I am sorry if the HTML links spoil this page’s appearance, but it is with very kind permission of WordPress that I am able to include these links to help my readers to easily find information I refer to. I am a new user of HTML and website/blog building and I am self-taught, so maybe in the future my skills will improve.


1 Comment

  1. Hi Cherie,

    I don’t know why, but after watching “The last king of Scotland” I felt the urge to find out about my Uganda days, which terminated about the time Amin expelled the Asian-Ugandans. We were in Jinja. By 1973 there were very few “whites” in that town. I am sorry to hear that your father was murdered by Amin’s thugs. The last tragedy of Amin is that he was not hanged as he so richly deserved.

    I doubt if your Dad had anything to do with the Entebbe operation. The Israelis knew everything they needed to know from the released hostages and the fact that an Israeli firm had built the terminal at the airport meant that they had the plans at their disposal from the moment the hijacked plane touched down. They had all the information they needed without the help of spies on the ground. If there was an informant he surely would have told them that Amin had taken to using a white Mercedes instead of the black one the Israelis used in the raid. That would have saved the Israelis the trouble of painting the white merc that they had, black, prior to the raid.

    Your father, along with the hostage Mrs Dora Bloch, were victims of Amin’s loss of “face” after the raid. Amin had been humiliated and he needed victims to try and recover his terror inspiring mystique. Apart from your dad and Mrs Bloch, hundreds of Kenyans were also killed. However the damage had been done and Amin’s regime began to fall apart.As it fell apart the killings increased, including prominent people such as Archbishop Luwum.

    I don’t know if this helps but I wish you well.



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