Expulsion of Asians in Uganda in 1972

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On 4 August 1972, the then President of Uganda, Idi Amin, ordered the expulsion of his country's Indian and Pakistani minority, giving them 90 days to leave Uganda.[1] Amin said that he had had a dream in which God told him to order the expulsion.

The ethnic cleansing of Indians in Uganda was conducted in an Indophobic climate in which the Ugandan government claimed that the Indians were hoarding wealth and goods to the detriment of indigenous Africans and "sabotaging" the Ugandan economy.[2]

Former British colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa have many citizens of South Asian descent. They were brought there by the British Empire from British India to do clerical work in Imperial service, or unskilled/semi-skilled manual labour such as construction or farm work. In the 1890s, 32,000 labourers from British India were brought to East Africa under indentured labour contracts to work on the construction of the Uganda Railway. Most of the surviving Indians returned home, but 6,724 decided to remain in East Africa after the line's completion.

Many Indians in East Africa and Uganda were in the sartorial and banking businesses, where they were employed by the British. Since the representation of Indians in these occupations was high, stereotyping of Indians in Uganda as tailors or bankers was common. Asians had significant influence on the economy, constituting 1% of the population while receiving a fifth of the national income. Gated ethnic communities served elite healthcare and schooling services. Additionally, the tariff system in Uganda had historically been oriented toward the economic interests of Asian traders. [3]

Indophobia in Uganda pre-dated Amin, and also existed under Milton Obote. The 1968 Committee on "Africanization in Commerce and Industry" in Uganda made far-reaching Indophobic proposals. A system of work permits and trade licenses was introduced in 1969 to restrict the role of Indians in economic and professional activities. Indians were segregated and discriminated against in all walks of life.[4]

After Idi Amin came to power, he exploited pre-existing Indophobia and spread propaganda against Indians involving stereotyping and scapegoating the Indian minority. Indians were stereotyped as "only traders" and "inbred" to their profession. Indians were labelled as "dukawallas" (an occupational term that degenerated into an anti-Indian slur during Amin's time), and stereotyped as "greedy, conniving", without any racial identity or loyalty but "always cheating, conspiring and plotting" to subvert Uganda. Amin used this propaganda to justify a campaign of "de-Indianization", eventually resulting in the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Uganda's Indian minority.[4]

This expulsion of an ethnic minority was not the first in Uganda's history, the country's Kenyan minority having been expelled in 1969.[5]

The expulsion

On 4 August 1972, Amin gave Uganda's Asians (mostly Gujaratis of Indian origin) 90 days to leave the country.[1] The motivation for this remains unclear. Some of his former supporters suggest that it followed a dream in which, he claimed, God told him to expel them.[6] Whatever the case, Amin defended this expulsion by arguing that he was giving Uganda back to the ethnic Ugandans:

We are determined to make the ordinary Ugandan master of his own destiny, and above all to see that he enjoys the wealth of his country. Our deliberate policy is to transfer the economic control of Uganda into the hands of Ugandans, for the first time in our country's history.
—Idi Amin, quoted in Uganda: a modern history.[7]

Ugandan soldiers during this period engaged in theft and physical and sexual violence against the Asians with impunity. After their expulsion, the businesses were handed over to Amin's supporters.

Aftermath

Following the expulsion of Indians in 1972, India severed diplomatic relations with Uganda. The Indian government warned Uganda of dire consequences, but took no action when Amin's government ignored the ultimatum.[8]

Many of the Indians were citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and subsequently emigrated to the United Kingdom. Others became stateless after being stripped of Ugandan citizenship. Most of the Ugandan Indians refugees who were accounted for went to Britain, which took around 27,200 refugees. 6,000 refugees went to Canada, 4,500 refugees ended up in India and 2,500 refugees went to nearby Kenya. Malawi, Pakistan, West Germany and the United States took 1,000 refugees each with smaller numbers emigrating to Australia, Austria, Sweden, Mauritius and New Zealand. About 20,000 refugees were unaccounted for.[9]

Before the expulsion, Asians owned many large businesses in Uganda but the purge of Asians from Uganda's economy was virtually total. In total, some 5,655 firms, ranches, farms, and agricultural estates were reallocated, along with cars, homes and other household goods.[7] For political reasons, most (5,443) were reallocated to individuals, with 176 going to government bodies, 33 being reallocated to semi-state organisations and 2 going to charities. Possibly the biggest winner was the state-owned Uganda Development Corporation, which gained control over some of the largest enterprises up for grabs, though both the rapid nature of the growth and the sudden lack of experienced technicians and managers proved a challenge for the corporation, resulting in a restructuring of the sector in 1974/5.[7]

In popular culture

See also

References

External links

  • Google Answer on the Ugandan Asian expulsions, with multiple references
  • BBC story on the subject
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