Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Thank you Goans, thank you world!

I apologise for the seemingly interminable stories and pictures about my book ... yes, I know it seemed to go on and on. Equally, I would like to thank the many, many people who responded. My only excuse is that for a first-time author it only happens once in a lifetime (the first time). So far, Yesterday in Paradise has taken on a life of its own thanks to the folks in Goa, India, Canada, USA, UK, and various parts of the world. I am humbled and grateful that so many of you have, and continue to, read my little effort. I could not have done it without you especially ... Braz Menezes (Matata trilogy), Mervyn Maciel (Bwana Karani and From Mzee to Mtoto), Sultan Somjee (Bead Bai and the recently released Home Between Crossings), Frederick Rico Noronha (publish and the unofficial patron saint of Goan literature), Vivek Menezes (the Goa contact, co-curator of the highly successful Goa Arts and Literary Festival, journalist and many other talents), Vijay Badhwar (who continues to push me along), Gerry Loughran (Birth of a Nation and other stories), the Goan media,Goan Voice UK, Alex Figueiredo for his courage and heaps, and heaps of other people who had anything to do with the book. However, there is one guy that I will always admire: Merwin D'Souza of the Dr Ribeiro Goan School Ex-students Association. Merwin and the Ex-students Association have been absolutely brilliant in promoting the book in Canada. I cannot thank them enough.

So will the never-ending story come to an end soon ... I hope not. perhaps there is life in it yet but I will try not to bore my faithful readers of this FB page and my blog. God Bless.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Goans, the utter radicals in Kenya Times of India

Utter radicals: Kenya's Goa connection
Vivek Menezes | TNN | Dec 21, 2016, 09.29 AM IST
Goans dominated in the colonial administration of British-ruled Kenya, Uganda, and German Tanganyika.

Goans dominated in the colonial administration of British-ruled Kenya, Uganda, and German Tanganyika.
The story of Goan migrants to East Africa is among the most astounding episodes in Indian diaspora history. A tiny percentage of migrants from the subcontinent (themselves never more than five percent of the overall population), pathbreakers from the Konkan, played an outsized role in colonial expansion, and then the anti-colonial push for independence. Aquino de Braganza was a crucial ideologue and negotiator for Mozambique's freedom fighters. A G Gomes invented the 'gomesi', now national dress in Uganda. But most incredible is the record and legacy of Goans in Kenya.

'Yesterday in Paradise' by Cyprian Fernandes is an elegiac but no-holds-barred chronicle of when "Goans dominated in the colonial administration of British-ruled Kenya, Uganda, and German Tanganyika...the colonial administration would have collapsed but for the skill and management of the Goan clerks and accountants. Later, doctors, chefs, musicians, dentists, motor mechanics, coolies, carpenters tailors and workers with other skills joined...In semi-tropical Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika they found an even larger paradise than they could have ever imagined. Until 1963, they enjoyed life with a gusto that could only have been found in their beautiful Portuguese-ruled Goa."

Fernandes deserves congratulations and lasting gratitude for 'Yesterday in Paradise'. It is a book only he could have written, including anecdotes and perspective, which remained unwritten for decades after being bullied out of Kenya. His wife was warned "dear lady, get him out of this country today. They are going to kill him. They have a bullet with his name on it". Happily, those anxious moments led to a happy ending. Now the veteran journalist is peacefully settled, counting blessings, "I have woken up each morning and my prayer has been 'thank you, Goa. It's great to be alive, in Australia. Thank you'."

It's little known - and even less understood - how important Goan migration was in the making of modern native consciousness across the British and Portuguese maritime empires. Fernandes correctly attributes this pioneering spirit to "eighteenth-century Pombaline Reforms and the sense of equality by which Goans regarded Europeans in the nineteenth century. Burton stated that it is 'No wonder that the black Indo-Portuguese is an utter radical, he has gained much by Constitution.' The Goan attributes of public philanthropy and community service grew out of the pre-Portuguese Goan concepts of communidade (community) and were revisited by the European enlightenment. This concept was very important to the community of Bombay and was carried to the segregated highlands of Kenya by such people as Dr Rosendo Ribeiro and Dr A C L de Sousa."
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When the end of colonialism appeared on the horizon, a handful of Goans helped lead the way for Kenya. Pio Gama Pinto "broke the apartheid rules by entering European restaurants and hotels in Nairobi and Mombasa in the early 1950s. As a result of his efforts...non-whites were finally allowed access to such places." Gama Pinto was "an ultra-national Goan Kenyan freedom fighter. The other was Fitz de Souza, lawyer, constitutionalist, parliamentarian and deputy speaker." Son of a Goan father and Maasai mother, Joseph Murumbi Zuzarte was "freedom fighter, one of the architects of Kenya's constitution, the biggest player in the legal defence of the Kenyan leadership in detention during the Mau Mau insurgency, [set] up the network of the Kenyan diplomatic corps, Kenya's first Foreign Minister, Kenya's second Vice President."

Like other Indians in East Africa, Goans struggled to stay on in the post-colonial environment and the majority migrated to the West. A significant number came home to India. But Fernandes reports, "there is one group of people who deserves Kenya's collective applause: the Goans who remained. I am not sure that those who stayed after everyone else had left did it for reasons of commerce and business, or that they could not fathom living anywhere else, or because some of them were genuinely dedicated to the betterment of the country if not the people. Whatever the reason, the eternal survival instincts of the Goans have allowed them not only to prosper but also to become one with other Kenyans."

Wonderful irony that Goans who once pushed the colour bar in one direction - insistent on parity with Europeans - now tip scales in the other, conceding no ground in the definition of African. Much the same happens everywhere. Cyprian Fernandes - self-described "addicted to living by my wits and by the seat of my pants" - speaks for an entire community, "I am a man of many parts, from many places...Kenyan dust runs through my veins and resides in my DNA, which means my body will always be Kenyan but, while I have left my heart in Kenya, my soul belongs to my country of adoption, Australia." Yet, "the Goan in me will only die with that last sunset".

Review of Sultan Somjee's first classic Bead Bai

Highlight, right click and open link

The second in the trilogy has just been published and is available on Amazon and Createspace:

Monday, December 19, 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Cyprian Fernandes: Maureen and Nev: celebrating art and literature, and life in Goa.

IN the early 1970s, the Goan community was shocked by a horrific motor car accident that claimed three young lives: young lovers Avena D'Sa and Derryck D'Mello and Shafu Butt (?). They were all vibrant members of the Railway Goan Institute.

As an investigative reporter I had come to handle death as just as another part of the job, nothing personal. On this occasion, however, I fell apart. I loved these three kids. We did so much together: with his sister Maureen (pictured) they were a part of everything we did together, the hugely successful anniversary variety show (everything, the scenery, the music ...) the picnics, the fishing trips, and all of the things young folk do. I was slightly older and they looked up to most of us seniors.

I could not handle it at all. Until the funeral, I locked myself up in my bedroom and was lost in a void of my own making. At the funeral, I could not condole with Derryck's wonderful mum and dad or put a consoling arm around Maureen. In fact, it was not long before I stopped going to the club somewhat. I never asked what happened or how it happened. Until now.

I found Maureen D'Mello in Pilerne with her terrific husband Nev (Nevett) D'Souza with whom she built a beautiful life for her children Leanne and Mark. On Wednesday for the first time I listened as Maureen with her heart breaking recalled that fateful evening. At last, I have closure on a nightmare that has haunted me for 46 years.

Nev, a former teacher, headmaster, a poco Italiano who taken Maureen and the children on the beautiful safari of his life as sought new challenges with Maureen who is a willing in any endeavor Nev undertakes. She developed her own skills: painting on canvas, or porcelain, on any material that takes her fancy. She is today a magical artist and she is still blooming because artists never stop flowering.

Nev has also developed a love of antiquity especially books and arts. He also loves modern classics and I had pleasure of listening and introducing me to some of the gems that continue to pleasure his senses of thought, imagination and discovery.

Mark who began designing computer games is now pursuing success in the advertising field at a very high level in London.

Leanne is married to a young hotelier genius Werner (?) and together they have built the Santana Resort on Candolim Beach which is today one of the premier attractions. Tell your friends, tell your folks, if you are coming to Goa, Santana is a little heaven for you. Next door used to be their world famous Calamari ... but the family still treated me to a dinner on the beach that was everything I wished (very Calamari) for and the second time I lovingly surprised by the cuisine. I had similar experience at Leila Athaide's where she served an enchanting vegetarian meal. I share Maureen and Nev's pride in their children and their grandchildren.

With a bit of luck I may get to see Olive, Maureen's mum in Panjim.

I can sleep a little easy and find solace in prayer for family and friends who have left us.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Yesterday in Paradise .... Sultan Somjee's review At last read it properly .............

How Cyprian Fernandes set out on the road to be a man

A file photo of former Nation investigative
A file photo of former Nation investigative reporter Cyprian Fernandes. He has released his memoirs titled ‘Yesterday in Paradise’. PHOTO| MIRIAM NAMUBIRU 
By Sultan Somjee
More by this Author

Yesterday in Paradise: 1950-1974 is a part memoir and a part tribute to some admirable politicians, sportsmen and journalists of Kenya’s immediate post-independence history. At the tender age of 12, Cyprian Fernandes was arrested and held prisoner during a random scoop in Eastleigh that targeted the Mau Mau. That was the 1950s, around the time that Cyprian’s memoir begins with tragic poverty in the family. It was the tenacious strength of the mother, Rosa Maria Fernandes, that held the six siblings together. They survived in the poor Asian-Somali mixed neighbourhood of Eastleigh.
The memoir ends around 1974 when the author had to flee his birth land because “there was a bullet to his name”. It’s a hard story of a young Nation reporter chasing the truth in the midst of the politicians’ looting spree and several assassinations of those who spoke against the regime’s misrule. It was the birth of Kenya as we know today — third on the Corruption Index, a clique of millionaires while the majority live in abject poverty.

Cover of the book 'Yesterday in Paradise' by Cyprian Fernandes. PHOTO| COURTESY
At 13, Cyprian left school because his integrity was questioned and he refused the punishment for stealing altar wine that he did not. He had the stubbornness and courage to defy Father Hannan, the principal of St Teresa’s Boys. It was that 13-year old boy lying he was 22 who entered adult life. He went on to become one of the best investigative journalists in Kenya. His lived his formative years during the one party democracy, when writers, artists, journalists and intellectuals were detained or had to flee into exile. It was a time of fear and silence as Ngugi wa Thiong’o puts it.
At one point Cyprian was even discussed in Parliament and was nearly deported as was the rule then when Asian Africans disagreed with politicians. But Cyprian would not be corrupted by any of the big fish. At times he was called ‘an imperialist stooge’ to his face. This was ironic for the politicians were, in fact, the real stooges of the western imperialism. His interrogation by the minister for Information, Zachary Onyoka, is revealing (Chapter 10, Interrogation). “I can have you killed in five minutes! ... you pundas, don’t you know that I have the power to cancel Fernandes’ citizenship and deport him to Britain?”
There are some illuminating details about Pio Gama Pinto’s life in the book. How he worked underground supplying arms to the Mau Mau, perhaps in cohort with the Indian High Commissioner Apa Pant, whose residence in Muthaiga was raided by the colonial police in spite of diplomatic immunity. One critical question that the author asks that has been left unsolved is: Where were the Mau Mau getting financial and material help from? He suspected some Indians in Kenya and the Indian government but he could not verify this.
The book fills in some details about Pio Gama Pinto and Joe Rodrigues, the controversial editor of The Nation, that even their spouses did not know. He shows admiration for the two patriots not because they were Goans like he is, but because as journalists, they had their hearts on their profession, and for the country.
The author accolades Joseph Murumbi, the one time vice-president of Kenya with ‘socialist leanings’ and Njioroge Mungai, the powerful Minister of Defence and a close ally of Kenyatta and his notorious Kiambu group. History, however, remembers the two parliamentarians who did not stand up against the assassinations, the massive land grabbing, corruption and greed of the Kenyatta family, and the brutality of the police state in the making.
There are insights that Cyprian gives about The Nation in 1960s and early 1970s.  It was the newspaper that was formative in guiding the mind of the nation as it came to hold it’s own reins. It was the time when the newspaper wrenched the tightly held power of journalism from the hands of the Europeans and put it into the hands of Kenyans. In the process, as one reads between lines in Cyprian’s book, The Nation developed the Kenyan brand of journalism while learning to negotiate with the state’s meddling and getting through what needs to be said to the wananchi. In the youthful and vivacious media house, there were also small but telling incidents of racism, corruption and harassment of junior staff.
Cyprian Fernandes was probably the first journalist to witness Idi Amin’s massacres. He was frog-marched to Idi Amin and made to sit before him and listen to ‘his lies’ for two and a half hours! The dictator wanted his story as the saviour of Uganda to be reported by The Nation. Cyprian, having narrowly escaped, filed the breaking news report. Unfortunately, his boss Boaz Omori, tore the negatives, destroying the evidence that he had collected risking his life — a clear indication of Kenya’s hand in the controlling the media and planting Idi Amin in Uganda with the aid of the British and US.
He pays tribute to Goan Olympians, and briefly mentions the Goan civil society working for the welfare of the poor, the church and education. It’s contribution has been enormous but little known perhaps because the institutions that they created or helped to strengthen bear the names of saints and come under the Church. There is also a suggestion of the community feeling itself superior to other Asians as the English speaking Christians and the Empire’s pet children.
Had Rufina Fernandes, Cyprian’s wife to whom the book is dedicated, not pleaded with him to leave the country when it was intimated to her that he had ‘a bullet to his name’, I doubt Skippy would have left Kenya. He earnestly felt it was his professional duty to stay and tell the truth. His powerful politician friends did not come to save him. Perhaps, they no longer found use for the reporter to prop their own schemes.
What Cyprian’s mother, the lady with ‘dynamite eyes’ and ‘vice-like grip’ said about her son to Father Hannan, who wanted to strip and beat him, as was his habit, was what he was. Speaking in Swahili mixed with broken English, she said “You won’t stop him, Father. If he has made up his mind to leave (school), he will leave. If he says he did not steal your wine, he did not steal your wine. You must believe him.”
I was Cyprian’s classmate. We were in the first term Form I, elated to be in the Secondary stream and fresh from our success in the Kenya Asian Preliminary Examination (KAPE). The year was 1957.
1954-1974 Yesterday in Paradise is material for an intriguing movie based on the life of an investigative Kenyan journalist. It’s the story of a 16-year-old boy that John Bierman, the fearless founding editor of The Nation, called “the biggest conman I have ever seen” and gave him the job.
Sultan Somjee was the Head of Ethnography, National Museums of Kenya (1994-2000) and is the Founder Community Peace Museums of Kenya

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Yesterday in Paradise: Frederick Noronha in Goa Today

Yesterday in Paradise:
Goa'n to Kenya: stories of another era

Frederick Noronha

Goan migrants to Bombay might be the most numerous, those to the Gulf probably saw the biggest changes happen in their lifestyles, while recent migrants to Britain have undeniably taken their Konkani culture to places like Swindon in rather unique ways.

Yet, for some reason, the Goan expatriate in Africa has been often discussed, written about and focussed on. Among the Goan 'Africander' in ex-British East Africa, those from Kenya seem to retain the highest profile.

Along comes a new book by former journalist Cyprian Fernandes, on the Goan experience in Nairobi and other aspects of life in that country. It's called 'Yesterday in Paradise: 1950-1974' and promises "a memoir filled with prejudice, murder, conflict and more". So, does Sydney-based Fernandes achieve his goal?

If you dive in to Chapter 14, you encounter "Idi Amin, Milton Obote". Which Africander Goan would not have their lives touched by these names? This chapter starts off with Obote calling Fernandes a "colonial stooge", apparently for asking inconvenient questions while both were in Singapore. Soon, a drunk South African seaman tells Fernandes sneeringly that "another black gorilla has come to power in Africa". In no time, Milton Obote (who has just lost power) and Cyprian Fernandes are back, on the same plane mind you, headed for Africa.

Without visas, Fernandes says, he crosses the Kenya-Uganda-Tanzania borders. He is apparently having one hell of an adventurous time when four armed soldiers rush in, and tell him: "You must come with us."

For a while, Fernandes lets us think that he is about to meet his maker. But, of course, he didn't, otherwise we wouldn't have got this far with his story. What comes out next is an amazing mix of bravado, bluster and .... I won't say bull, because to verify his story all one needs to do is to somehow access the newspapers of those times in some dusty library, and you'll get to know.

In Cyprian's life, incidents are invariably king sized. Here's another description of his encounter with that Ugandan military dictator who would soon hound off an estimated 50,000 South Asians from his country: "I sat there for nearly two and half hours and listened to a pack of lies.... I liked the guy. He was simple but sincere, and he appeared genuine about cleaning up Uganda."

In case you were wondering about his own link with journalism, Fernandes gives the background. The oldest frontline newspaper in Kenya, the East African Standard, was an out and out White British settler newspaper. Once the Aga Khan launched the Daily and Sunday newspapers, some space opened up. The Daily Nation gave Kenyans "a taste of what real press freedom was about" (p.107) he writes.

This is the kind of book that you can read at a stretch, or just dive in, whichever part catches your fancy. On nights when my 13-year-old was in a rebellious mood and keen to avoid his reading quota, I'd pluck out a chapter from here, and chances are he'd be quickly drawn in to the story from another continent, another culture and another century.

In 22 short chapters, Fernandes tells the story of the situations he encountered. In the media world, the Goans of Kenya, and amidst dramatic times overall. The first few chapters have titles such as Goan Migration, Nairobi -- the Early Days, Eastleigh -- Unforgettable, and St Teresa's.

Never a dull moment here. On Page 8, we come across a poltergeist wrecking violent havoc on the home of Fernandes' young schoolmate. As if that's not enough, this is the home of someone "with blue eyes, honey blonde locks and long sexy legs; she was, to me, the most beautiful girl in the world".

Fernandes, like any good journalist, quotes writers whose words then give a background into people, places and situations. He gives a hint to what happened to some of the peaceful Goan preserves of the yesteryears. ("Today, in 2016, Eastleigh and its surroundings are called Little Mogadishu where it is rumoured Somali Al-Shabaab terrorists come for R&R...")

Fernandes takes up the story, warts and all. He is critical of some aspects of the Goan society -- mostly glossed over otherwise. He talks about the struggle of deprived families (like his) to make it, and the geographical (yes, Bardez versus Salcete) bias carried over to the Africa of those times. Contrary to Goan public opinion of the era, he attempts to understand what the Kikuyu were really fighting for, and de-mythify the rebels' oathing ceremonies. Fernandes' encounter with British colonialism is one you don't normally hear of. His own story of his humble mother struggling to make it (p.12) is amazing.

Fernandes -- Skip to his friends, after an American film character -- comes across as a young lad who lived an adventurous life. He apparently kept on in that trajectory, if you buy his narration, and lived to tell the story! His friends come from diverse backgrounds, and his involvement with the African world does appear untypical compared to the Goan experiences of the times.

His stories are one more incredible than the other -- how he got thrown out (in some way) of home and school, how he talked himself into a bank job at 13 (and lost it), how he fibbed his way to his first newspaper jobs... and lot more. It's hard to make up your mind on whether Fernandes is terribly unlucky, or just the opposite, managing to bounce back from almost any tough situation. There are lessons to be learnt from his chance entry into journalism; likewise from the fact that he was a 'bookaholic'.

Expect to hear some insider's stories into the life and times of The Nation newspaper, and the men (only men) who made it. In 1972, Fernandes was in Munich, where else, when Palestinian militants struck the Olympics contestants there. His encounters with politicians are unbelievable, and so is his story of why he left Africa.

His profiles of some prominent persons are touching and lively. Among these are Joe Rodrigues "the finest South Asian journalist in Kenya" and brother of Gen. Sunith Rodrigues; the part-Goan Vice President Joe Zuzarte Murumbi; the Black Liberation supporter and Kenyan nationalist Pio Gama Pinto; and even an allegedly paedophile priest. His writing style tends to create characters we feel we somehow know.

Chatting about this book via cyberspace, my co-villager Tony, also ex-Kenya but now based in London, called it "unputdownable". Fernandes himself claims his first boss in journalism give him a sports copy to rewrite saying: "Make it bright and interesting, use a little fiction if you need to, just this once." Before recommending this book, let's hear what the others who know the Kenyan reality well say.... Just this once.

Yesterday in Paradise: 1950-1974
Cyprian Fernandes
Balboa Press, 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

Britain, Israel and the Amin coup

Next January, it will be 46 years since one of the more horrific events and its aftermath in Africa: The coup by Idi Amin.

A long read, but for history's sake and the "unforgotten".

By Pat Hutton and Jonathan Bloch
That Idi Amin was a brutal dictator of extraordinary cruelty is well known and becomes more so as the tally of his victims, according to conventional accounts, topped over 100,000 between 1971-75. What is less known is the role of the British government and its allies not only in maintaining Amin's machinery of repression but in actually establishing him in power. Although Amin later became alienated from his Western friends, we can show here that the break between him and Britain became complete only when his fall (on April 10, 1979) was imminent, and that regarding him as the least evil option from the point of view of British interests, London actively helped keep him in power.
The tale of how the Western powers took measures to reverse the decline of their fortunes in Africa during the 1960s is complex in detail but simple in principle. In Uganda, once dubbed the Pearl of Africa by Winston Churchill, huge British financial, industrial and agricultural interests were under threat from the Obote government.
Unease about Obote's intentions was combined with attempts by outside interests to ingratiate themselves. Obote accepted aid from the Israel government, which was desperately trying to avoid total diplomatic isolation while being used as a proxy by the United States in countries where its own reputation was tarnished.
The Americans and Israelis worked in very close co-operation in Uganda, particularly through their respective intelligence agencies, the CIA and Mossad. Washington provided some development aid while Israeli troops trained the Ugandan army and airforce. The British economic and political presence was always predominant and this was one of the situations that Obote hoped to change.
Throughout the late 1960s, Obote was consolidating his personal power and introducing legislation that was to shake the colonial interests. Although Obote was no Fidel Castro or Julius Nyerere [president ofTanzania], his Common Man's Charter and the nationalisation of 80 British companies were not welcome in London.
As one prominent commentator put it: The Obote government was on the point of changing not only the constitution but the whole political system when [Amin's] coup occurred.
A vital source of raw materials, Uganda was not about to be permitted to determine its own political development at the expense of the entrenched interests. Soon, plans were being laid by Britain in combination with Israel and America to remedy this situation.
The grand plan
The first task was to choose Obote's possible successor, and Idi Amin proved an obvious choice. Known by the British as a little short on the grey matter though intensely loyal to Britain, his qualifications were superb. He had started his career as a non-commissioned officer in the British colonial regiment, the King's African Rifles, and later served in the British suppression of Kenyan nationalists in the late 1950s (mistakenly known as the Mau Mau rebellion).
In Uganda itself, Amin had helped form the General Service Units (the political police) and had even chosen the presidential bodyguard. Some have said Amin was being groomed for power as early as 1966 (four years after Ugandan independence on October 9, 1962), but the plotting by the British and others began in earnest in 1969 when Obote started his nationalisation program.
The plotting was based in southern Sudan, in the midst of a tribe that counted Amin among its members. Here, the Israel government had been supporting a secessionist movement called the Anya-Nya against the Arab-leaning Sudanese government, in an effort to divert Arab military forces from Israel's western front with Egypt during the no peace, no war period of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
One of those helping the Anya-Nya was Rolf Steiner, a German mercenary veteran of several wars, who told of his time there in a book published in 1978, The Last Adventurer. Steiner said that he had been introduced to representatives of the giant Roman Catholic charity, Caritas International, and referred by them to two British men who would help him provide assistance to the Anya-Nya. They also suggested that Steiner keep in touch with a British mercenary called Alexander Gay.
Steiner had made Gay's acquaintance when they were both serving as mercenaries on the Biafran side during the Nigerian civil war. A former bank clerk, Gay had fought in the Congo from 1965 to 1968 and then in Nigeria, where he met the famous novelist Frederic Forsyth, then a war correspondent.
Forsyth had stood bail and given character references for Gay in November 1973 when Gay was tried for making a false statement to obtain a passport and for possession of a pistol, ammunition and gelignite (a type of dynamite).
On conviction, Gay was sentenced only to a fine and a suspended sentence. One of the factors leading to this leniency may have been that the British Special Branch had praised him in court and testified that he had provided information which was great and considerable help to Western powers.
However, back in East Africa, Gay, Steiner and their British mercenary friends established themselves in southern Sudan with a radio link to their other base in the Apollo Hotel in Kampala, Uganda. But Steiner said he did not know of the real intentions of his British colleagues until he heard Gay had been casting aspersions on him to the Anya-Nya leadership.
In a confrontation over this, Steiner forced Gay to tell him what his real task was—to overthrow or assassinate Obote. The British government had no interest in supporting a southern Sudanese secession and was only using the Anya-Nya as cover for its plans for the future of Uganda.
Steiner said that he wanted to know more, so he made Gay come with him to Kampala to search the room of one of their British colleagues at the Apollo Hotel, Blunden (a pseudonym Steiner uses for this former British diplomat now turned mercenary). They came away with a mass of coded documents detailing the British plot that had been transmitted to London by the British embassy.
Steiner says in his book that Gay explained to him why Obote's successor had been chosen, saying: Blunden told me that the British knew Idi Amin well and he was their first choice because he was the stupidest and the easiest to manipulate. As Steiner remarks: Events were later to prove who was the most stupid.
Little more is known about this episode except that Steiner claims that Blunden was operating an airline called Southern Air Motive, and had planned the December 18, 1969, assassination attempt on Obote. It has since been independently confirmed that Gay and Blunden were working for British intelligence, and also that Steiner found British intelligence code books at the Apollo Hotel.
The Israeli connection
That it was the Israelis who were providing so much help to the Anya-Nya while the Britons plotted against Obote lends support to the allegations of a former CIA official in March 1978 that Amin's coup was planned by British intelligence in cooperation with Israeli intelligence. Amin was known to have visited southern Sudan at least twice in 1970, once in disguise, and was in constant touch with the Anya-Nya rebels.
One of Amin's Israeli friends has spoken of his role in the coup and how he helped Amin. The friend who was a colonel in the Israel army, said that Amin approached him, saying he feared that people loyal to Obote would be able to arrest and kill him before he could secure Kampala. The friend said he told Amin that troops from Amin's own tribe in southern Sudan should be on hand, as well as paratroopers, tanks and jeeps.
Bolstered by the Israeli assistance and the greater power of the Ugandan tank corps, Amin was able to overwhelm the majority of the armed forces loyal to Obote on January 24-25,1971. The Anya-Nya troops were a core of the forces in the Amin coup, and thousands of them later joined the Ugandan army and carried out many of Amin's early bloody purges which saw more than 100,000 Ugandans killed between 1971-75.
The Israelis had clearly been cultivating Amin for some time through their military presence in a manner consistent with their role as US proxies. These times were the heyday of the CIA's worldwide efforts to subvert radical regimes and in Africa to assert the predominance of the US as far as possible. Active in Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Nigeria, the United States was also seeking to gain influence in Uganda, especially by means of intelligence officers of the navy and airforce based in Kampala, together with the CIA agents working under the cover of USAID.
One of the features of Amin's coup was its similarity to the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana in February 1966. Like Obote, Nkrumah had been putting forward nationalisation measures and, when on a visit abroad (like Obote), was toppled by a coup which had the hands of the CIA all over it. Former CIA officers have since written books crediting the agency with the Ghana coup. Interestingly, Obote was a staunch supporter of Nkrumah who, during his exile in Guinea after his overthrow, recorded in his letters the financial support he had received from Obote's government for his upkeep in Guinea.
The Amin coup
Just a few days before the coup, 700 British troops arrived in neighbouring Kenya. Although they were apparently scheduled to arrive long before, The Sunday Express speculated that they would be used to put down anti-British riots following the decision of the British Conservative government to sell weapons to apartheid South Africa, remarking that the presence of the troops, seemingly co-incidental—could prove providential. The paper added that the British troops would be used if trouble for Britons and British interests starts.
The report was followed two days later, still before the coup, by strenuous denials.
When the coup took place, Obote was attending the Commonwealth conference in Singapore. He was aware that the internal situation in Uganda was not to his advantage and went to the conference only because President Nyerere of Tanzania had impressed on him the importance of being there to help present effective opposition to the British government's arms sales to apartheid South Africa.
The African members of the Commonwealth were piling the pressure on the British government. At a meeting with Zambia's Presidents Kaunda, Nyerere and Obote, British Prime Minister Edward Heath was threatened with the withdrawal of those countries from the Commonwealth should the South African arms decision go through. During this tempestuous meeting, Heath is reported to say: I wonder how many of you will be allowed to return to your own countries from this conference.
When Amin finally struck, the British press claimed that a Ugandan sergeant-major operating a telephone exchange had overheard a conversation concerning plans by Obote supporters in the army to move against Amin. Upon hearing the news, Amin moved into action, quickly seizing all strategic points in Uganda. Apart from the fact that the army would not have attempted to remove Amin in the absence of Obote, this version ignores the British and Israeli plans.
On Amin's accession to power, all was sweetness and light between him and the British establishment. Britain very quickly recognised Amin's regime, exactly one week after the coup. And he was hailed as a conquering hero in the British press. But even the US government considered the British recognition of Amin as showing unseemly haste.
In London, The Times commented: The replacement of Dr Obote by General Amin was received with ill-concealed relief in Whitehall. Other British press comments included, Good luck to General Amin (the Daily Telegraph); Military men are trained to act. Not for them the posturing of the Obotes and Kaundas who prefer the glory of the international platform rather than the dull but necessary tasks of running a smooth administration (the Daily Express); and more in the same vein.
Not surprisingly, Amin supported Edward Heath's stand on selling arms to apartheid South Africa, breaking the unified opposition of the states at the Singapore Commonwealth conference.
Amin also denationalised several of the British companies taken over under Obote, and in July 1971 came to London where he had lunch with the queen and meetings with Heath's cabinet. But the seeds of discord between Britain and Amin were being sown as he began to fail to live up to their expectations of servility.
After the coup, Uganda was granted 10 million pounds in economic aid (to be administered by Britain), in addition to 15 Ferret and 36 Saladin armoured cars, other military equipment and a training team for the Ugandan army.
However, Amin resented the fact that Britain would not give him fighter aircraft and other sophisticated equipment to help his expansionist ambitions. In particular, Amin had plans for an invasion of Tanzania, so that he could have a port on the east coast of his own.
For help in this project, which was becoming an obsession, Amin then turned to Israel. He asked for Phantom jet fighters and other sophisticated weapons, permission for which would have been required from the US government.
Saying that the request went beyond the requirements of legitimate self-defence, Israel refused Amin, which probably was a factor in the expulsion of the Israelis from Uganda in April 1972.
Although short of the hardware necessary, Amin was well supplied with strategic advice. This came from another collaborator with British intelligence, a British major who lived on the Kagera River, on the border with Tanzania, where Amin used to come to visit him frequently by helicopter.
This former officer in the Seaforth Highlanders had been a member of the International Commission of Observers sent to the Nigeria civil war to investigate charges of genocide, but he was sacked amid allegations that he had offered his services to the Nigerian federal government as a mercenary.
But at a National Insurance Tribunal in England, where he was protesting his dismissal and claiming compensation, the major explained that his real role in Nigeria was to collect intelligence for the British government and offer strategic military advice to the Nigerian federal forces. In spite of strenuous denials from the Foreign Office, the tribunal accepted the major's story and described him as a frank and honest witness.
It is not known whether the major's activities on behalf of Amin were officially sanctioned by the British government, or parts of it, but his role seems to have been similar to the part he played in Nigeria. At any rate, the major took Amin's invasion plan of Tanzania seriously, undertaking spying missions to Tanzania to reconnoitre the defences and terrain in secret.
He supplied Amin with a strategic and logistical plan to the best of his abilities, and although lack of hardware was an obstacle, evidence that Amin never gave up the idea came in the fact that the invasion of Uganda by Tanzanian and exiled Ugandan anti-Amin forces in late 1978 which eventually brought his rule to an end on April 10, 1979, was immediately preceded by an abortive invasion of Tanzania by Amin's army.
In the manner which characterised the major's behaviour after the Nigerian episode, he did not maintain discretion when back in England. He wanted to publish his story of cooperation with Amin in the Daily Express, but this was scotched by an interesting move by the British government -- a D-Notice banning the story on grounds of national security.
US support
Beginning with his purges of the army, later extending them to those who had carried out the purges, the ferocity and cruelty of Amin's rule increased steadily—most of it performed by the dreaded Public Safety Unit, the State Research Centre and various other bodies. These received training assistance and supplies from Britain and the US.
In July 1978, the US columnist Jack Anderson revealed that 10 of Amin's henchmen from the Public Safety Unit were trained at the International Police Academy in the exclusive Washington suburb of Georgetown. The CIA-run academy was responsible for training police officers from all over the world until its closure in 1975.
Three of the Ugandans continued their studies at a graduate school, also run by the CIA, called the International Police Services Inc. Shortly after the Amin coup, the CIA had one full-time police instructor stationed in Uganda. Controversy raged in the United States in the use of equipment sold to Uganda. Twelve of these were police helicopter pilots for American Bell helicopters that had been delivered in 1973.
Security equipment of various types also found its way to Uganda from Britain, and most came as a result of the groundwork done by another collaborator of British intelligence, Bruce Mackenzie, an ex-RAF pilot and long-serving adviser to President Kenyatta of Kenya.
Mackenzie also doubled as the East African agent for a giant British electronics firm, based in London, dealing in telecommunications. Trade in radio transmitters and other devices continued right up to Amin's fall from power. Though Mackenzie had died when a bomb planted by Amin's police exploded in his private plane, the trade with the electronics firm continued nonetheless.
Several times a week, Ugandan Airlines' planes would touch down at Stansted Airport in Essex, England, to unload quantities of tea and coffee and take on board all the necessary supplies for Amin's survival.
In spite of all the revelations of the nature of Amin's dictatorship and his dependency on the Stansted shuttle, it continued right up to February 1979, when the British government ended it in an extraordinary piece of opportunism. The chief advantage of the shuttle to Amin was that it obviated the need for foreign exchange, for which Uganda had virtually none.
In June 1977, the Sunday Times revealed that the Ugandan planes to Stansted were picking up Land Rovers (28 were delivered), one of them specially converted and bristling with sophisticated electronic equipment for monitoring broadcasts, jamming and other capabilities.
The cargo spotlighted by the Sunday Times also included a mobile radio studio, which is almost certainly where Amin was continuing to assert over the airwaves that he was in control long after he had been ousted from Kampala.
At the same time, an extensive relationship between Uganda and the Crown Agents, the trading agency with strong links in Britain's former colonies, was exposed. Crown Agents had arranged a deal for Amin to buy 120 three-ton trucks made in Luton. The trucks were thought to have been converted for military purposes before being shipped out. The British firm that supplied the electronic equipment and another firm in the same field had also supplied Amin's State Research Centre with telephone-tapping equipment, night-vision devices, burglar alarms and anti-bomb blankets.
When the Liberal MP David Steel questioned Labour Party Prime Minister Jim Callaghan about this, all that the prime minister had to say was that the devices were intended to track down television licence dodgers. To add to this, it was said that after the Entebbe raid by Israeli troops, the radar damaged there was sent to England for repair.
The principal value of the Stansted shuttle was to maintain Amin's system of privileges, vital for retaining the allegiance of the Ugandan army. His power elite, consisting of army officers not subject to the stringent rationing imposed on the rest of the population, depended on the goods brought in on the Stansted shuttle.
During times of the frequent and widespread shortages of basic commodities linked to inflation of around 150%, the officers could use the British goods to make their fortunes on the black market.
A further aspect of the Stansted shuttle involved British, US and Israeli intelligence: this was in the provision of the planes. According to the Washington Post's Bernard Nossiter, Pan Am was instructed by the CIA to sell several Boeing 707s to a New York-based Israeli company with former US defence department connections. The company was owned by an Israeli multimillionaire with a vast commercial empire.
The company sold one of the Boeings to a small firm based in Switzerland, which passed the plane on to Amin in May 1976. The function of the Swiss-based company was to act as a laundry for the financing of projects backed by Israeli intelligence.
In 1977, the Israeli company which had originally bought the plane from Pan Am, wanted to sell another Boeing to Uganda Airlines, but with the notoriety of Amin's regime getting worse, the company feared losing the US State Department approval it had won for the first deal.
The plane was thus sold to another company housed in the same building in New York as the Israeli company, which then leased the plane to Uganda Airlines. The two companies had close ties, and the purpose of this extraordinary generosity was to spy on the Libyan military airfield in Benghazi, where the planes always refuelled before going on to Stansted.
Both Israeli and US intelligence provided navigators for the planes to spy on the airfield and make reports which were shared out among Israeli, US and British intelligence agencies. The information was probably of very little use, since the Libyans almost certainly knew of the presence of the navigators on the planes. But Amin was getting a very cheap service for the coffee and tea bound for London and the other goods that returned. Washington also provided pilots for the planes. A California-based company supplied the pilots acting as a subcontractor.
Britain, a friend to the last
In general, the British government's attitude to Amin's regime was neatly summed up by The Times when Amin had just expelled Uganda's Asians on August 9, 1972: The irony is that if President Amin were to disappear, worse might ensue, The Times said. In a similar comment, exemplifying the relationship with Amin as being the devil you know, The Economist stated: The last government to want to be rid of Amin is the British one.
This attitude persisted even beyond the break in Ugandan-British diplomatic relations in July 1976, as shown by the fact that the Stansted shuttle continued. Important political commentators in the British press believed that London would not impose sanctions on Uganda under Amin, since this might set a precedent for sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Britain plainly considered the bad image consequent on maintaining links with Amin not as serious as the consequences of breaking links with South Africa.
Nonetheless, as the body count of Amin's victims—former friends, members of the clergy, soldiers and mostly ordinary people—mounted daily, stock should have been taken of those who helped Amin stay where he was and turned a blind eye to the amply documented brutality of his regime.
Thirty years on, no such stock has been taken and Amin continues to be cast as the demented dictator who had no friends.


  This invaluable collection of photos was sent to me by David Mungai. He says it is “for the acknowledgement of Kenyan History, the celebra...