11/01/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Did Uganda Have a Space Program, or is Robert Kimball a Fool?

Did Uganda have a space program? As someone born in the country during the tyranny of Idi Amin, I cannot put anything beyond Idi Amin's Daffy Duck logic, but I cannot remember any "Space Program." The so-called "Last King of Scotland, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea" had more - how does one say this? -- terrestrial ambitions (Averted Gaze). I ask because ardent anti-multiculturalist Robert Kimball spoke on the subject by way of responding to the Nobel Prize Committee's slamming of American Literature (And what Uganda's *alleged* space program has to do with the Nobel Prize escapes me entirely). From The Guardian:

"Sorry, John Updike. Don't get your hopes up, Joyce Carol Oates. And Philip Roth, what were you thinking? It's been 15 long years since an American author was last honoured with a Nobel prize for literature.

Judging by the low opinion the head of the award jury holds of American writing, it is not going to happen this year."


Robert Kimball, the editor of The New Criterion, registered (Nobel Literature Committee judge Horace) Engdahl's comments with a degree of detachment. He noted that the other Nobel committees are due to announce their prizes next week, in medicine, peace and economics, and that Engdahl may have been trying to generate some advance publicity.

The committee on literature by convention gives only 48 hours notice of its announcement.

'It reminds me a little bit of the Apollo space programme that Uganda instituted under the rule of Idi Amin where they had rockets and so on except that they were made out of balsa wood,' he said."

Did Robert Kimball -- who loves the Great Books of Western Civilization -- just journey into The Heart of Darkness? Was there a Ugandan Space Program? There is no online evidence that I can find, and the whole thing sounds kind of dodgy. We recall the infamous "Zambian Space Program," which was covered with racist glee on October 30, 1964 by Time magazine thusly:

"During the independence festivities only one noted Zambian failed to share in all the harmony. He is Edward Mukuka Nkoloso, a grade-school science teacher and the director of Zambia's National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy, who claimed the goings-on interfered with his space program to beat the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the moon. Already Nkoloso is training twelve Zambian astronauts, including a curvaceous 16-year-old girl, by spinning them around a tree in an oil drum and teaching them to walk on their hands, 'the only way humans can walk on the moon.'"

Charmed, I'm sure.