Saturday, January 01, 2005

Questionable Donors

The BBC offers a fascinating account of why some offers of international aid aren't worth the press release they're written on ...
And son it was in December 1973 when Her Majesty's diplomatic staff in the Ugandan capital of Kampla telegrammed London to pass on an offer to save the UK from financial ruin from General Idi Amin Dada.

By the end of his reign Amin had fallen out with Britain and given himself the title of Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.

But in 1973 he was still trying to ingratiate himself with the former imperial power.
Amin - whose penchant for irritating the British sometimes went to bizarre lenghts - had already declared himself the King of Scotland (Her Majesty was not amused) and went about dressed in a kilt. Of course, he was also a murderous, ruthless dictator whose reign killed hundreds of thousands of Ugandans. Nevertheless, he generously established the "Save Britain Fund" with 10,000 Uganda Shillings and then offered the British "one lorry load of vegetables and wheat," so long as the British would send a plane to collect it. When the British frostily ignored this offer, Amin denounced Britain. A month of so later the fickle dictator offered to help broker a peace agreement in Northern Ireland. Downing Street tried to put a positive, yet condescendingly British, spin on the proposal.
"As the general's messages go, this is one of his more lucid and, although it is as preposterous as one might expect, the acting high commissioner believes that it was sent with the best of intentions," the prime minister was informed.
Surprisingly, the UN did not jump at the chance to administer Amin's "Save Britain Fund."


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