Just a few last minute arrangements and then airport here I come to catch a Qatar Airlines flight for Entebbe via Doha.
Hey, that’s the same Qatar that just got ostracised by the rest of the Gulf states for their support for terrorism. Entebbe rings a bell too.
June 27, 1976, Air France flight 139, Israel to France, hijacked in Greek airspace by four Palestinian sympathisers. It was diverted to Benghazi, Libya, another familiar name, and after refuelling there it flew to Entebbe where it received a warm welcome from President Amin. Four additional freedom fighters joined the original hijackers. The army made some helpful alterations to the old airport terminal to where the hostages were transferred.
In subsequent days some of the 248 passengers were released. Ultimately the hijackers were holding 106 hostages which included 12 crew and 84 Israelis. They issued some demands and set 1 July as the date on which the killing of hostages would start. Diplomatic efforts saw that put back to July 4, it suited Amin, whilst the spotlight was on him he could fly to Mauritius to hand over chairmanship of the Organisation of African Unity.
And it suited the Israelis just fine too. It gave them just enough time to put together a rescue mission that was spectacularly successful. Seven hijackers were killed, somewhere between 33 and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed when the troops opened fire on the rescuers and 11 fighter planes were destroyed on the ground.
Three passengers and the Israeli commander were killed in the raid. Some were injured. Dora Bloch, 75 years old, was left behind.
Idi had a major tanti. Kenya had given some minor assistance to the Israelis. Hundreds of Kenyans living in Uganda were murdered as a consequence. Poor Dora Bloch was dragged from her hospital bed and killed, as were doctors and nurses who tried to intervene.
It sometimes seems as though the world has gone mad but it was always thus. Would I be better off heading to London, Paris, Manchester? As the French say plus ça change …