The book, the second by author Moses Isegawa takes a similar path to the first, Abyssinian Chronicles – with its focus on Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s rule.
Set in Uganda, during the rule of Idi Amin, one of the most brutal dictators to come out of Africa, Snakepit portrays the inner workings of a country veering close to collapse.
The main character, Cambridge-educated Bat Katanga returns to Uganda after his studies in the UK to take up a high-ranking position as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Power and Communication. His boss, General Samson Bazooka Ondogar, the Minister, is in contrast, a poorly educated soldier, who has risen through the army ranks to his current position in Amin’s government.
Bat is good at his job and his ministry even earns praise from President Idi Amin. Unfortunately, this does not go down well with Bat’s boss, General Bazooka.
Inevitably, the relationship between the two soon sours. Intimidated by Bat’s good record and superior education, General Bazooka enlists his former mistress, Victoria to spy on the young permanent secretary.
Somehow, despite falling for Victoria’s charms, Bat manages to keep out of trouble, refusing to get entangled in the political conspiracies unfolding around him. He finds himself at the centre of internal wrangles between various power brokers, notably his boss, and Robert Ashes, an Englishman who is close to Idi Amin. As the infighting escalates, and regime’s brutality worsens, Bat tragically ends up in jail for apparently taking a bribe from a Saudi prince. He is released eventually, and leaves the country, only to inexplicably return. His wife is murdered but Bat stays on until the government of Idi Amin ultimately falls.
Although the book is a work of fiction, it taps into Uganda’s political history, and the well documented brutality of Idi Amin’s regime, which lends it a level of realism.