ROSENGARDWORLD. A WEEKLY COLUMN Number 15 - Saturday 20 January 2001

President Auberon Waugh’s sudden death on Tuesday at the age of just 61, when he was assassinated in Somerset by a member of his own bodyguard, who burst into the Presidential bathroom firing a machine gun whilst he was on the lavatory, came as a terrible shock to the whole Somerset nation, (which we often forget is actually the size of Western Europe). In the chaos, shock and confusion that followed, -as his family searched the house for his multi million pound hoard of uncut diamonds; – for three days they refused to confirm that Bron, as he was affectionately known to his people, was dead, insisting he had just a very nasty cold. However, by Thursday they had appointed his eldest son Alexander as acting President of Somerset; which some observers thought was a sign that the cold must have got a lot worse overnight. Finally on Thursday night, the Somerset Ambassador to London admitted what the whole world already instinctively knew, President Bron was indeed dead.

The whole of the Democratic Republic of Somerset is now in mourning, and tens of thousands are in the streets. Weeping women, men and children surround the Presidential Palace in Yeovil High Street inside which the Body of President Waugh is believed to be lying. Outside the Palace two tanks stand guard next to the Old Swan Public House for many years a favourite watering hole of the late President, their gun barrels at half-mast.

The entire world is in shock at the monumental loss of a man who many likened to a cross between Mother Theresa, The Princess of Wales and Albert Schweitzer. The huge obituaries that have been appearing, spread over many pages of all our newspapers these last couple of days, we believe have properly reflected the massive contribution to mankind made by Waugh, one of the giants of our age, whose life, like those of Ghandi, and Martin Luther King before him, has been cut tragically short by an assassin’s bullet.

Some may think that the cancelling of all TV programmes and replacing them with a large colour photograph of the photogenic late President, was slightly excessive, but we do not agree. The only previous mass outpouring of national grief on a similar magnitude to the events we are now witnessing in the streets of towns and cities up and down the land, occurred over 40 years ago on the sudden death of Winston Churchill (a former British Prime Minister) at the age of 104.

Indeed, the reaction to President Waugh’s death overseas has mirrored that of his own country. Whilst a few isolated and anonymous commentators do appear to be at a loss to explain how the death of a man, widely recognised as a living Saint ( but who in reality, to the people who actually knew him well, was as nasty, and evil a vindictive piece of work as you would ever have hoped to have avoided) should be provoking such mass grief, we, however, feel that it is only for future historians to deliver the final verdict on this Colossus of the late 20th Century, who so successfully took the people of Somerset on the long path to global domination. Even though, at first, they might have been unwilling to assume the role of The World’s Policeman, almost all of them- at least the few who survived his military campaigns, over the years- came to understand the benefits of bringing Yeovil to the wider world.

From Washington this morning there even comes word that next week’s Inauguration of President Elect George W. Bush might have to be put on hold as the American public comes to terms with its grief at the loss of a man the New York Times editorial today described as “having followed in the footsteps of JF Kennedy, only in Somerset, England rather than Dallas.”

Meanwhile, on the same day, but generally unnoticed, in the shadow of President Waugh’s death, the passing was also announced of Laurent Kabila, 53, widely regarded in his native Congo as the most brilliant satirist and journalist of his generation. Kabila, the son of the late Evelyn Kabila, the famous novelist (of the BBC TV series Kinshasa Revisited fame), died peacefully at his home in Kinshasa, surrounded by his loving family and one friend, his accountant.

“He was a simply wonderful human being. The fact that I hung around him for 40 years, trying to get my fees paid, I think says it all” his accountant said. “ During his life perhaps it is true to say he might have been hated and despised by millions, but the fact is that he was as lovely and kind a man as you could wish to have your life destroyed by. He lived just to tickle the people of the Congo up.”

Laurent Kabila, in the Congo manner, always loved to play practical jokes, especially on himself. Indeed as several of the small obituaries reported, as a young man Laurent Kabila shot himself with a machine gun half a dozen times in the chest, in what at the time was widely thought to be an attempt to avoid having to do his remaining 10 years National Service in the Congolese army, but which, many years later he revealed to have been just another of his little jokes. As a result of which he was only able to smoke 200 cigarettes a day and drink 6 bottles of wine, for the rest of his life, as he had lost his lungs, spleen, stomach, and both kidneys in the incident.This did not however stop him leading a normal married life. Mr. Kabila is survived by his 4 widows, and his 24 children.

[ Eds. note: The loss at such a young age of these two very talented men from such widely differing backgrounds makes one stop yet again and ponder the age old question: Is it better to be a good man throughout your life and regarded as such by millions, only for it to be revealed on your death that you were in fact a truly bad and unpleasant man, by all those who actually knew you? Or is it better to be despised, hated and regarded universally during your lifetime as an awful person, only for it to be announced on your death that in fact you were the nicest, kindest man that ever lived, and that your whole public persona had been an act?]


COPYRIGHT.Peter Rosengard for Rosengardworld2001