|East African Airways Comet 4c in 1960's livery|
Julian Bray writes: During the mid 60's, I flew out to Entebbe Uganda on an East African Airways Comet 4c, the jet aircraft had to stop at Benghazi, to refuel. The UK's then finest jet aircraft, couldn't do the trip, all in on hop. Before the refuelling began, a Libyan with a backpack pump entered the aircraft and gave us and the interior of the Comet a good spraying in case we had imported any bugs ...from London! He was told to spray every flight and that is what he would do!
Benghazi Airport was then little more than a series of wooden huts, and a Coke machine dispensing warm bottles of Coke.
It was my introduction to Africa and the start of a contract to split up an old well established East African company, born during the British colonial era, and now needed to respect Ugandas recent Independent status as a Republic within the Commonwealth. My target company was to be split into three, with new national manufacturing and retail businesses to reflect changing political positions in each of the old East African territory.
In those days, international companies took good care of their expat staff. In preparation for my posting I was sent on an expensive residential induction course at the Overseas Service College [OSC] based at Farnham Castle. The purpose was simple, to ensure that in the shortest possible time, we knew all there was to know about the countries we would be living in "and the effects of tribalism in the community"; and becoming a part of and possibly leading commerce in our new country and train up local staff to undertake key roles..
The OSC had been set up for Civil Servants and Diplomats but a few 'business types' were allowed in as well. I remember being told to take lots of soap as it was in short supply (it wasn't) and to learn Swahili from a 18 LP set of Linguaphone records. Duff advice as Ugandans all spoke perfect English, due to the then large Indian (3rd generation) Asian population, and the fabled BBC Transcription Service: English by Radio service. (the BBC installed and trained up Radio Uganda staff)
The country being made up of seven very different kingdoms, also had a variety of languages and tribes... My hastily mastered Swahili was only good for Zanzibar thousands of miles away, you'd need to first travel through neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania to get there....
I was lucky to be in Uganda the year the UK won the World Cup legendary High Commissioner Rex Hunt who later ran the Falklands was in charge...we saw the match 2 days later on black and white televisions spread around the grounds; the High Commissioner had also laid on a good party at the Kampala High Commission...the 3 inch Ampex videotape being played out several times that day by UTV. I'd made an arrangement with the genial new TV station director James Bwogi, he was to be slaughtered a few years later by Idi Amins secret police squads.
The point is the UK had at that time deep and constant knowledge (intelligence) of local conditions, tribes and political factions, through its diplomatic service but even then totally misread the eventual direction General Idi Amin Dada would take after he unseated Dr Milton Obote... Little of this detailed knowledge is available today, as our diplomats have been cut right back, and the introduction of computing cuts down on the 'out of office' socialising, as London would be constantly demanding information.
Make no mistake the tragic events unfolding in real time ovder the last few days on a multiplicity of media platforms is just the start. Time for the politicians to listen to the Military, the enemy is no longer at our door, it is now clearly wrapped up within our communities. Sadly our politicians don't have enough gravitas to make it all work.
Perhaps Mr Cameron might start urgently making a few phone calls to the several Tory Grandees and Generals 'he put out to grass' and starting delegating responsibilities to experts?
The political talent pool however isn't that big or experienced, but this is a situation that truly requires 'Action this Day' from all parts of our community. Our foreign policy can no longer be guesswork. We need a plan.....
JULIAN BRAY [ 01733 345581 ], Journalist, Broadcaster, Aviation Security &Operations, Travel / Cruise Industry Expert, Writer and Coach EQUITY, NUJ, Broadcast ISDN changed number 01733 345020) SKYPE: JULIAN.BRAY.UK e&oe A later updated version is always on the Website