Idi Amin, King of Scotland

March 29: On this day in 1979, Idi Amin fled Kampala for his tribal homelands, his mad, monarchial rule of Uganda effectively over. Amin's decade of terror, atrocity, and black comedy inspired Giles Foden's award-winning 1998 novel, The Last King of Scotland. Here Amin enlarges himself well beyond the position of Life President:

His Excellency President for Life Field Marshal Al Hadj Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular welcomes the Court of Kampala and assembled worthies of the city to his annual banquet.

The above is excerpted from a moment early on in the banquet and the book, when the narrator, Nicholas Garrigan, who out of boredom and fear has accepted the post of personal physician to Amin, begins to realize what he's in for. A few moments later, as Dr. Garrigan chews on fried bee larvae and other strangeness, the table talk takes another unappetizing turn:

Suddenly Amin himself, overhearing, called down from the top of the table.

"And what is your fault with monkey meat, Minister of Health. I, your President, has eaten monkey meat."

Wasswa, craven, toyed with his cutlery.

"And I have also eaten human meat."

This His Excellency almost shouted. A shocked silence fell over the table—almost visible, as if some diaphanous fabric had come down from the ceiling and settled over the streaming tureens and salvers.

Foden grew up in nearby Malawi, moving there with his family the year that Amin took control in Uganda. Recent news articles wonder if Malawi is a monarchy in the making, given that "His Excellency the State President Ngwazi (Conqueror of Conquerors) Professor Bingu wa Mutharika," who is barred by the current constitution from running for a third term in office, is heavily promoting his younger brother as successor.


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

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