UGANDA’S high commissioner has invited Asian entrepreneurs who were expelled from that country more than 40 years ago to return and invest in the African nation.
High commissioner Joyce Kikafunda called on Ugandan Asian businessman to help the country grow and prosper, like they have done in Britain, at an event in London last month.
Thousands of Asians were given 90 days to leave Uganda in April 1972 by dictator Idi Amin, after he called them “bloodsuckers” who were “sabotaging the economy of the country.”
More than 28,000 deportees arrived in the UK, many of them with just £50 in their pockets. Since then however, Ugandan Asians have made significant contributions to politics, finance, business, the arts and sport in Britain and in other countries where they settled.
Speaking at the Ugandan House in central London on August 28, Kikafunda told Eastern Eye that “the Uganda of today was very different of the Uganda of 40 years ago”.
“Some of them (Ugandan Asians) have some very bad memories. The Uganda of today is very different. What happened was in the past, we learn from it and move on. Uganda’s loss was Britain’s gain. “I didn’t understand what was going on at the time, but I thought it was not true. I thought he (Idi Amin) would change his mind, but the man was mad. He carried out his threat to the letter.
“I’m glad Ugandan Asians are not holding a grudge against Ugandans now because they know it was an action of a mad person who has since died. That’s why some of them are going back to invest and to reclaim their property.
“We want businessmen to invest in Uganda. We want to grow but we don’t want to grow through aid or begging. We want to grow on development, on trade and investment. It’s a win-win situation. The investor gains and the country gains and develops. That’s what we want.” She added that when she looked back on the incident, “it was a blessing in disguise”.
“That man was a murderer. He murdered his own people. He could have killed the Indians… So by sending them away they lost property, but they were saved.
They were revived in Britain and after a lot of hardship they regained what they had by being hard-working and resilient. They rebuilt their lives themselves.
Losing them was worse for Uganda.” The deputy chairman of the London Conservative party, Kishan Devani, helped organise the event which was also attended by members of the Uganda Asians International Friends (UAIF). Devani, whose parents were from Uganda and were expelled by Amin, said it was important that people of his generation went back to the place where their parents were born.
“Being a third generation Asian of Ugandan descent, similar to MPs Priti Patel and Shailesh Vara, it’s interesting to see that the Ugandan people and Ugandan high commissioner, in particular, has put her hand out to the Ugandan Asian community,” he told Eastern Eye.
“It’s the idea of wanting to make Ugandan Asians feel comfortable again, to go back to Uganda again even just for tourism, if not to settle down and build those ties once again.
“I think that’s quite important for people of my generation who would like to go visit where their grandparents were born, or where their mother or father was born,” he added.