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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 17:05 GMT
Guilt by association?
Idi Amin
Many Ugandan's suffered under Idi Amin's rule

In a HARDtalk interview on 7 January, Tim Sebastian talks to Bob Astles, a prominent figure in Uganda in the 1970s, when it was controlled by Idi Amin, who died in exile in Saudi Arabia this summer.

In Uganda Bob Astles is still remembered as one of despotic dictator Idi Amin's right-hand men, conspicuous for his white skin.

Thousands of people died under Amin's repressive regime, which executed political dissents and caused the expulsion of tens of thousands of Asian-Ugandans.

Astles remained part of Amin's regime until the dictator's fall in 1979.

He fled to Kenya, but was brought back to Uganda to face criminal charges. Though acquitted, he remained in jail for over six years.

Despite his close association with the dictator in the popular imagination, Astles claims that he was also a victim of Idi Amin, having been imprisoned by him on several occasions.

He believes he should not be held accountable for the crimes of that era.

Living in fear

Astles says that though he was unable to express it at the time, he remained devoted to Uganda's previous president, Milton Obote.

Like Iraq under Saddam, he says, people were unwilling to express their true beliefs because they were living in fear.

He said he "always kept his mouth shut". Astles denied that when Amin put him in charge of an anti-smuggling unit in the late 1970s, patrolling Lake Victoria, he was given a shoot-to-kill policy.

Astles' anti-smuggling activities remain controversial.

After the collapse of the Ugandan economy, the majority of Ugandans practised smuggling to survive, so that everyone was a potential criminal.

Asked if anybody would believe his version of events, Astles replied: "Africans will".

HARDtalk can be seen on BBC World at 04:30 GMT, 11:30 GMT, 15:30 GMT, 19:30 GMT and 00:30 GMT

It can also be seen on BBC News 24 at 04:30 and 23:30


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