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Day May 15, 2011

President Idi Amin expelled the non citizen Asians, but not the Ugandan Asians


Iddil Amin posing in a photo with Asians that stayed in Uganda after 1972

Fellow Ugandans At Heart,
I have read books and news papers about Uganda under the presidency of Idi Amin, but I believe that many, if not most of the stories written were selective and / or misleading.

Most memorable of the books is probably, the State of Blood by Henry Kyemba. After reading the book, I realized that where his tribesmen were linked to the stories he wrote, he never mentioned their names. About the departure of the Asians, he concentrated on the soldiers who took the luggage left behind by the departed Asians, but did not write exactly why the Asians left Uganda. I believe that most people here if not all, believe that President Idi Amin expelled the Ugandan Asians from Uganda. That is not true.

Is there any reason to fear telling the truth about this subject? Why has everyone kept silent about this? I read somewhere a couple of years ago that the African scholars were to re-write the History of Africa which they claimed, ”was distorted by the colonial powers”. Till today, apart from the New African monthly magazine which writes about Africa and tends to correct the stories of the past, I have not yet seen the re-written History of Africa by any African scholar. Perhaps I have missed it, can someone please advise me how to get the ”Re-Written History of Africa”?

I appreciate very much the contribution of information to this historical event. Somebody asked me whether Idi Amin did not expel the Asians of Indian origin.The answer is, Yes he did. In fact it was the Asians, not only of the Indian origin, but also from Pakistan, Seychelles, Bangladesh etc. My statement was that Idi Amin did not expell the Ugandan Asians. I am glad that some Ugandans on UAH have a very good memory of what transpired at the time of the departure of the Asians. I note also that many people have forgotten how it all began, so as to conclude the decision to expel the Asians.

In the speech by Idi Amin in which he announced the expulsion, he made a statement in which he said that, ”The Asians have businesses here in Uganda and are making a lot of money. But the problem is that all the money they make is kept in the British Banks. Don’t you know that the money you keep in the national Bank is the money which develops the country?” At that moment, Idi Amin said that the act of making money in Uganda and banking it in Britain is like milking a cow that you do not feed. He went on to say that many of these Asians have also denounced their Ugandan citizenship in preference for the British. He urged them to denounce the British and return to their Ugandan citizenship. He said that within 90 days all of those who had denounced their Ugandan citizenship must denounce the British and return to their Ugandan. He also said that, ”all those who will not comply with this announcement will be expelled from Uganda with immediate effect”. He concluded that, ”All those who will not comply and found here in Uganda after the 90 days, will face the Law of the Land”.

The conclusion of Idi Amin’s speech, ”………will face the Law of the Land” might have caused panic among the Asian community, so that the best they thought was to leave Uganda. Some, who were still citizens of Uganda, might have hoped to return after the situation had calmed down. A few remained in Uganda, but that was the choice they made, for they felt they had nowhere else to go, or were married to Ugandans and felt secure enough. I remember the family of Major Bashir Juma’s wife who decided to stay. Major Bashir Juma was the Governor of the Southern Region.

That is Henry Kyemba (then Minister of Health) to the right.

That is Henry Kyemba (then Minister of Health) to the right.

In 1974 while attending the British Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand, I met a former classmate of mine, Harish Panchal. The Panchal family were Ugandans of Pakistani origin and were working in the then, Canadian owned Kilembe Mines in Uganda before they decided to leave. We both had attended Bulembia School, a predominantly Asian school in Kilembe Township. My friend Allan Barigye of UAH also attended the same school, I wonder if he remembers the Panchal family.

Harish Panchal told me that they were so afraid to remain in Uganda while many of their friends and family members were leaving. He said that they had seen how innocent people were being murdered by the state secret service and felt that the same would happen to them. He mentioned the name of the former Chairman of the Workers’ Union, Mr. Rwamashongye who was murdered and thrown under the Mobuku Bridge on the Kasese – Fort Portal Road. ”Mr. Rwamashongye” he said, ”was a family friend of ours, but he was also the chairman of President Milton Obote’s political party, the UPC. My father was afraid that we would be associated with the UPC which would be a detrimental allegation”. He told me of a gentleman who resembled Dr. Obote, combed his hair like him, had a walking stick similar to the one Dr. Obote had. Harish told me that this man was arrested and that the secret service operatives claimed that the man was Dr. Obote himself. The man was beaten to near death and that many people begged that the man was their colleague at Kilembe Mines, but the beating continued. He was let go when he fell down and perhaps thought that he would die. So, such experiences scared many Asians and might have caused their decision to leave the country and not because they were expelled.

Briefly, President Idi Amin expelled the non citizens of the Asian community and not the citizens of Uganda.The expulsion of the non citizen Asians was in 1972. Juma Ali whom many called, ”Butabika” due to his acts similar to a mad man’s, was not yet a Lt. Colonel and was not yet the Commander of Malire Mech. Reg. Bombo.

Some Asians tried at the last moment to acquire Ugandan citizenship. The president had told the Asians to return to their Ugandan citizenship within 90 days. The Uganda TV and Radio read the remaining days every single day.

What some people mention about the killing of the Asians by the soldiers under Juma Ali’s command, was one of the many acts of violence that led to many other Asians to leave the country. Britain offered aeroplanes to take the Asians, but many were not permitted to settle in the UK, despite their UK passports. They were re-settled in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya and elsewhere.

My prior point was to clarify the misleading report of History that ”Idi Amin expelled the Ugandan Asians”. Briefly, President Idi Amin expelled the non citizen Asians, but not the Ugandan Asians.
Byaruhanga.J. Rubin.

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