Why I’m glad they didn’t assassinate Idi Amin

I came accross this commentary on the Independent website:

Why I’m glad they didn’t assassinate Idi Amin  by  Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

Written in the wake of the death of Idi Amin it is a ramble regarding the role of the British ( and ‘others’) ‘ who helped to create the misery Asians in East Africa went through’. 

She states:

‘Too many white men acquainted with him still say that he was a thoroughly enjoyable man (the same sort of raffish folk who describe the unrepentant fascist Diana Mosley, who also died this week, as “charming”). He made many such men kneel down before him or carry him aloft in a wooden boat in 1975. These whims merely revealed that he was “mad”, they said.’

I have sent the following to her, and to her editor, asking for her to action in making this statement to be remedied: 

‘This paragraph is grossly inaccurate, and defamatory of my father, Robert Scanlon, who died at the hands of Idi Amin.
He was one of the ‘ kneelers’ and ‘carriers’, deeply humiliating acts which the men carried out the to prevent harm to others  if they did not cooperate.

My father became a Ugandan citizen and regarded Uganda as his ‘homeland’, the country where I grew up, and my sister was born. My parents risked their lives by helping others (ultimately my father lost his life). They helped deported Asians like you by recruiting family members in Canada to act as sponsors to my mothers work colleagues who were their close friends, and are even now settled in Ontario. They helped a Ugandan friend, a minister in Obote’s government, who was nearly beaten to death by Amin’s regime.

It is disgusting that you associate my father with a fascist like Diana Mitford (Mosley), and that you write about my father in the same paragraph as ‘raffish folk’ who found Idi Amin a ‘thoroughly enjoyable man’. 
Vilification of, by inference, my father and his colleagues in this way is libellous and I would like you to take necessary steps to remedy your action.




What Did Bob Astles Know?

In an interview with Tim Rice on BBC’s HARDtalk  Major Bob said he ‘always kept his mouth shut’, that Lt. Col. Farouk Minawa (the head of the State Research Bureaux in 1977) was the killer, and that Charles Oboth-Ofumbi (Amin’s Minister of Internal Affairs,  killed in 1977) knew where all the bodies were. Bob Astle’s was a friend of my father’s which is why I could never understand why he did nothing to help us when my father disappeared, he would not even speak to my mother. He always denies having killed any one himself. In his interview with Tim Rice he says ‘….when your own friends are murdered you know there’s something going wrong – who murders them is another thing’.

Giles Foden also had the priviledge of an interview with Bob Astle’s which is reported on in the Bundu Times  May 1978 (I struggled to find the original reference in the Guardian) Dictator’s ‘white rat’ now a Wimbledon wobbly. In this interview Bob Astle’s once again denies being involved in or being responsible for the violence and killings during Idi Amin’s  days. Giles writes:

”What he did or did not do remains murky – even, I suspect, in his own mind, which shows clear signs of mental distress. “Of course,” he says, “you don’t know if I’ve told you the truth. Check it, check everything.”

Scruffy perches on top of Astles’s balding head and starts pecking it, and I think, I’ve got about as much chance of getting in there as that bird has.

Then Astles points to a package wrapped in string and manila paper under the table. “It’s all in there, Betty will publish my book when I’m gone.”

So how could I rely on any account given by Bob Astle’s? An old friend of my father’s  in Uganda said he thinks Astle’s does not know, or he would have written about it himself, as he makes money writing. Yet others including the Kampala Mayor Hajji NASSER NTEGE SEBAGGALA,  ( another old family friend who, incidentally, went with my mother to search for my father on the day he disappeared) tell me I must speak to Astle’s as surely he knows the truth. I can’t find where Astle’s is, and although Giles Foden has on a couple of occasions offer to assist with this, I am still waiting. I think, if Astle’s himself says the truth is in his book only to be published when he dies, then I may have to wait until he does.Tthere would be no way of knowing if what he said was true even if I could speak to him. I suspect he is a tough old goat and may not pop off for some time!

Burned alive in the State Research Bureaux?

I haven’t really documented very much about how the search is going, or what I am doing and interested readers of my blog will wonder. Of course I have indicated that I hope, through the internet, human web and the ‘six degrees of separation theory’  someone will come forward with information. I have also indicated that progress is slow in my ‘slow and steady wins the race’  blog.  However I have not been like the hare, I have been the tortoise, plodding away. It is in my nature to be like this, I am a Capricorn, a mountain goat who will keep its feet firmly on the ground whilst steadily and safely climbing to the top, slow and steady, nevertheless reaching in the end. I have a strong background in  research and I am a very systematic and organised person, so using my skills and experience I have found my self applying a logical and systematic approach to the problem.

I decided to get as much documented  information together, then analyse the findings, validate the evidence and hopefully form an exact account . I have always been told by my elders that around the time of my father’s disappearance the British  foreign office came up with 3 separate accounts of my fathers fate and that each one confirmed as being ‘from a very reliable source’. Each of these accounts apparently said about the same thing that happened, but in different places at different times, so obviously were not all reliable.  

My mother said that to know what had happened was worse than not knowing, and it was her wish for me not to be told. Destroyed by her grief my mother contracted bowel cancer and tragically died at the age of 52, in 1989. She died a horrible death, grasping for breath and life, crying ‘more‘, ‘more‘, clearly she did not want to die. My mother adored her two baby grandchildren with whom she sadly had such a short time. After she died we had a memorial service at the crematorium for both her and my father and later scattered her ashes on the beach at Blackpool which was her wish, as she was ‘sand grown’ (born and brought up in Blackpool). She had spent so many happy hours ‘on the sands’ and even I have fond memories of sitting in deck chairs eating fish and chips with bread and butter, grains of sand in my teeth. My Aunty (my father’s oldest sister, to whom he was very close) told me that she knew in her heart, that where ever his remains are (presuming they are in Uganda) they are where he would have liked to be,  he so loved the country. Some time after my mother’s death my brother had a dream in which he saw our parents dancing together, waltzing around and around, reunited and happy in another place.  

It is for my brother in the main part that I carry out this research. He told me some years ago, when I asked him for his consent to go on this journey of discovery, that he would like to know where our fathers remains lie, if indeed they do.  I never liked to ask my brother to tell me what is said to have happened to my father, as I knew it was my mother’s wish for me not to be told. I also know that it is still very painful for him to talk about so aggrieved is he. It is not that I am not pained, it is that my pain is different and this journey will, perhaps, help to exorcise my anguish.

My brother was in an interview on ‘Breakfast Time’ TV years ago. I was watching the broadcast from my friends flat in London. I don’t have very strong memories of the interview. I think I must have been too overwhelmed by the idea of my brother being on the television. I have known for years that  ‘off screen’ or ‘back stage’, after the interview, my brother was told what had really happened. Like I said, my mother believed it would to be too distressing for me to know and so I was not told. I wonder if this is why I am on this quest, because I have never been told what is supposed to have happened, the information available for all these years, reports from the Foreign Office, oral histories etc have never been shared with me, so I still don’t even know what might have happened.

Out of respect for my brother, not wanting to distress him further by asking him to act against our mother’s wishes, I have never asked him directly for information. A few years ago, after I told him I was going to try to find out what happened to our father, he told me what he had been told. My brother said he was told petrol was poured on my father in a room at the state research bureaux and he was set on fire. My brother did not feel that this was the truth.

“Slow and steady wins the race.”

 I am conscious that this process is slow and I hope that interested parties will bear with me. I have comforted myself with the words ‘slow and steady wins the race’. This comes from Aesop’s fable ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’.

My mother used to read bedtime stories to me and among the many was this old animal fable:

One day a hare saw a tortoise walking slowly along and 180px-The_Tortoise_and_the_Hare_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19994[1]began to laugh and mock him. The hare challenged the tortoise to a race and the tortoise accepted. They agreed on a route and started off the race. The hare shot ahead and ran briskly for some time. Then seeing that he was far ahead of the tortoise, he thought he’d sit under a tree for some time and relax before continuing the race.

He sat under the tree and soon fell asleep. The tortoise, plodding on, overtook him and finished the race. The hare woke up and realized that he had lost the race.

The moral, stated at the end of the fable, is, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

I think I liked this fable because I liked tortoises. I had a few, as pets, when I was a child in Uganda. I can remember my father stopping the car when we were driving on safari and jumping out and picking one up which was crossing the road. He put it on the floor in the back of the car. It made a horrible smell when it opened its bowels, probably with fear, poor thing. I think that must have been my first tortoise.

I can remember that we used to ride on the backs of some giant tortoises when I was a child in Uganda, I keep trying to remember where they were. I am not sure but think they may have been near or at the Namirembe Cathedral. There are a few large tortoises even now at the Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe.

When we lived up on Makindye hill there was this old swimming pool thing in the garden. It was the outer, round, metal frame of  one of those pools which stands above ground, presumably it would have had a liner in it at some time, which would keep the water in.  I think you can find these things even today? Any way, the one in the garden had been there from before we lived there and as there was no liner the grass and wild flowers grew inside making a good home for my collection of tortoises. I seem to remember having about 6 or so. There was the big original one (it had grown a bit over the years…. unless the collection had been added to when I was away at boarding school, they all looked pretty much the same to my child’s eyes) and then a couple of smaller ones (still quite big by English standards), and then, one time when I came home from boarding school in  England (The Royal Masonic School for Girls which was in Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire ), I found that there were all these little ones, so sweet, I didn’t know where they had come from, but thought that ‘they’ must have had babies!

I used to like taking tomatoes and luttice for the tortoises to eat. I liked watching the way they took big decisive bites from the crunchy lettuce leaves,  cool green cucumber and squishy tomatoes. It surprised me how fast the creatures could move. I liked the tortoises because no one else seemed to take much interest in them, so they were kind of  ‘my secret’, though of course they were not a secret as such, and I think the house staff or gardeners must have fed them when I was away. I had a guinea pig long before the tortoises, but one day I came home from school for lunch I found that the dog had killed it (I went to the Nakasero Primary School in Kampala at that time). So the tortoises were a safer bet as the dogs could not attack them, they just went inside their shells of course. I had the guinea pig when we  lived at Kawempe.

The saddest thing is that I just don’t know what happened to  them when we left that house and I still wonder to this day.

Six Degrees of Separation – connectivity and connectedness

The Six Degrees of Separationtheory (also called the “Human Web“) refers to the idea that if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth i.e. anyone on the planet is connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. 


 The theory, first proposed in 1929 by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy in a short story called Chains,  has captivated, and been  investigated in abstract, conceptual, and fictional terms, by many mathematicians, sociologists, and physicists within the field of network theory.

Due to technological advances in communications and travel, friendship networks have grown larger and span greater distances. Karinthy in 1929 believed that the modern world was ‘shrinking’due to the ever-increasing connectedness of human beings (even back then!). He posited that despite great physical distances between the globe’s individuals, the growing density of human networks made the real social distance far smaller.

I had thought that I had left it so long to start the search for information about my father being MoM? (MurderedorMissing?). However the internet offers unprecedented opportunity. If the theory of six degrees of separation appliers, and I already know a few people in Uganda, and other people help too, through this blog and their connections, then I can not be so very far away from someone who will know something. It is not a need for retribution, for how would that help any body, but  a need to bring closure to this question of MoM?

Please! Please! Please!circulate this blog as widely as you can,  harness the opportunity presented by technology, word of mouth, snail mail, email, gossip and newspapers to find out once and for all what did happen to Bob Scanlon, my father, in Uganda, in 1977.

Murdered or Missing Memorial (MoM)

I have the idea to create a memorial to all of those who lost their lives at the hands of the Idi Amin, like the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, or the wall of remembrance in America or the war graves in Flanders. First by collating the names of those missingormurdered right here on this blog and then working towards a memorial site in Uganda. Please add names to my father’s guest book and send your comments to me, and let me know if you are interested  this project.

……………….WALL of REMEMBERANCE………………..

 My father, Robert (Bob) Scanlon went murderedormissing (MoM?) in Uganda in 1977.  This was during the Idi Amin years. I just wonder does any one out there have any information which might help to discover what happened to him and why.

Let this be a ‘wall of rememberance’ for my father