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On 4 August 1972, as part of what become known as the economic war, Idi Amin, President of Uganda, gave Uganda's Asians (mostly Gujaratis of Indian origin) 90 days to leave the country,[1] following an alleged dream in which, he claimed, God told him to expel them.

The order for expulsion was based on the Indophobic social climate of Uganda. The Ugandan government claimed that the Indians were hoarding wealth and goods to the detriment of indigenous Africans, "sabotaging" the Ugandan economy.[2]

Historical background

Template:History of Uganda

In 1965, under Prime Minister Milton Obote (later President), Kenyans had been barred from leadership positions within the government, and this was followed by the removal of Kenyans en masse from Uganda in 1969.[3]

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 farmwork. In academic discourse, racism directed against these people from their host countries falls under the rubric of Indophobia.[4] The most prominent example of this is the ethnic cleansing of the Indian (sometimes simply called "Asian") minority in Uganda by the dictator Idi Amin.[4]

Many Indians in East Africa and Uganda were in the sartorial and banking businesses, where they were kept forcibly by the British colonialists. Since the representation of Indians in these occupations was high, stereotyping of Indians in Uganda as tailors or bankers was common. Also, some Indians perceived themselves as coming from a more advanced culture than Uganda, a view not appreciated by Ugandans. Indophobia in Uganda thus 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] These developments led many Indians to support Idi Amin's coup.[citation needed]

Expulsion and aftermath

After Amin came to power, he exploited these divisions to spread propaganda against Indians involving stereotyping and scapegoating the Indian minority. Indians were stereotyped as "only traders" and "inbred" to their profession. Indians were attacked as "dukawallas" (an occupational term that degenerated into an anti-Indian slur during Amin's time). Indians were 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]

On 4 August 1972, Idi Amin, President of Uganda, gave Uganda's Asians (mostly Gujaratis of Indian origin) 90 days to leave the country,[5] following an alleged dream in which, he claimed, God told him to expel them. In addition, Amin was eloquent in defending the expulsion in terms of giving Uganda back to the ethnic Ugandans:[6]

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.

Their expulsion also resulted in a significant decline in Uganda's Asian Hindu and Muslim population. Many Indians were born in the country, their ancestors having come from India to Uganda when the country was still a British colony. Those who remained were deported from the cities to the countryside, although most Asians were granted asylum in the United Kingdom. Many of the Asians with British passports, around 30,000, emigrated to Britain.[7] In Britain, the Ugandan Asians were offered temporary accommodation in converted RAF barracks. Most left as soon as possible to find their own homes or to share space with friends or family. Other countries receiving 1,000 or more each of these emigrants include India, Canada, Kenya, Pakistan, West Germany, Malawi, and the United States.[7] Many emigrants also found their way, in smaller numbers, to Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Sweden, and Mauritius.[7]

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.[6] For political reasons, most (5443) were reallocated to individuals, with 176 going to government bodies, 33 being reallocated to parastatal organisations and two going to charities. Possibly the biggest winner was the parastatal Uganda Development Corporation, which gained control over some of the largest enterprises up for grabs (to which it added nationalised British holdings in the country later in the same year), 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.[6]

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

At the time of Amin's death in 2003, many Ugandans still expressed appreciation for the expulsion of Asians.[8]

In popular culture

A 1976 Bollywood movie Charas has a pilot plot about the expulsion of Indians from Uganda. The expulsion was also portrayed in the novel The Last King of Scotland and the subsequent 2006 film of the book. It was also referred to in the 1991 film Mississippi Masala. It is also the main focus of the young adult novel Child of Dandelions by Shenaaz Nanji, which is a finalist for Canada's prestigious Governor General's Award.

The aftermath of the exile provides the backdrop for episode 2.6 of Life on Mars.

See also


  1. "1972: Asians given 24 hours to leave Uganda". BBC On This Day. 7 August 1972. Retrieved 2008-05-17.
  2. Henckaerts, Jean-Marie and Sohn, Louis B. Mass Expulsion in Modern International Law and Practice. 1995, page 22.
  3. Phares Mukasa Mutibwa (1992). Uganda since independence: a story of unfulfilled hopes. United Kingdom: C. Hurst & Co.. p. 67. ISBN 1850650667. Retrieved 17 August 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "General Amin and the Indian Exodus from Uganda" Hasu H. Patel, Issue: A Journal of Opinion, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Winter, 1972), pp. 12-22 doi:10.2307/1166488
  5. "1972: Asians given 24 hours to leave Uganda". BBC On This Day. 7 August 1972. Retrieved 2008-05-17.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Jørgensen, Jan Jelmert (1981). Uganda: a modern history. Taylor & Francis. pp. 288–290. ISBN 9780856646430. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Abdu Basajabaka Kawalya Kasozi and Nakanyike Musisi and James Mukooza Sejjengo. The Social Origins of Violence in Uganda, 1964-1985. 1994, page 119
  8. Public reacts to Amin's death, The Daily Monitor

External links

es:Guerra Económica en Uganda
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