By Henry D Gombya
The London Evening Post regrets to announce the death of one of our most revered columnists. Robert Asketill, the man famously known to many as ‘Bob Astles’ and to his friends as ‘Bob’ and the man who founded the Uganda Aviation Services, the first airline to employ Ugandans which was renamed ‘Uganda Airlines’ by Idi Amin, has died.
Born in Ashford, Kent, Bob left the United Kingdom aged only 21 to serve as a colonial officer in Africa. He was sent to Kampala in 1949 on special duties and fell in love with Buganda, a country he had been sent into to put some sense into the Baganda elders who were giving the colonial office several problems.
After the country gained its independence in 1962, Bob remained and worked for Milton Obote, the country’s first Prime Minister until he was overthrown by Gen Idi Amin in 1971. As those who worked under Obote fled the wrath of Idi Amin, Bob stayed and after being thrown into prison for nearly a month, ended up joining the Amin government as a government adviser.
He was charged with helping stop smuggling and corruption. It was during this time that he became so hated by businessmen and coffee smugglers whose boats he often rammed and sank when he caught up with them on their smuggling runs on Lake Victoria. After Amin was overthrown, Bob was charged with murder but was acquitted by the Uganda High Court as no evidence could be pinned on him for having killed anyone. Instead of setting him free, the new Ugandan government threw Astles into prison and only came out after that government itself had been overthrown in 1985.
On his release from prison, Bob was declared persona-non-grata in Uganda. But it was difficult to find which country to deport him to as he had given up his British citizenship and became a Ugandan. After negotiations between the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ugandan government, the British Government agreed to restore his British citizenship and he returned to Britain where he has stayed until his death on December 29, 2012.