YEARS AFTER IDI AMIN, INDIANS FLOCK TO UGANDA
By M.R. Narayan Swamy, Kampala, November 26, 2007 (IANS)
years after former dictator Idi Amin booted them out lock, stock
and barrel, Indians are again returning to Uganda in large numbers
and helping to rebuild an economy that was shattered following their
exodus. Indian High Commissioner Niraj Srivastava puts the number
of Indians, including people of Indian origin, in Uganda at nearly
20,000, although only 2,000 of the estimated 55,000 forced to quit
the country in 1972 have chosen to return.
capital Kampala is again dotted with Indian-run stores and businesses,
and Indian faces are a familiar sight on the streets. A Bank of
Baroda billboard stands proudly in the city centre, with a beaming
face of Mahatma Gandhi. There are also plenty of Hindu temples and
- in keeping with the diversity of Indians - very many Indian community
others are beginning life anew in Uganda, opening a variety of shops
and business establishments. There are also those who have come
to the "pearl of Africa" - a country of 30 million --
to work in different industries. "The Indian community has
recaptured the position (it once had)," said Srivastava. "Today
Indians are present in all sectors including manufacturing. They
are employing tens of thousands of (Ugandan) people."
Jery Pacheco, who runs a popular restaurant, The Coconut Shack,
and has lived here for 17 long years. "Yes, Indians are coming
back to Uganda - and in large numbers. You can see them everywhere.
And they are successful too," Pacheco, who is from Goa, told
Indian Association Uganda is the leading community body that plays
an active role in binding the many Indian groupings in the country.
It brings out a publication, Namaste, which spreads the message
of India to Indians.
the Indian Association Uganda, there are also the Andhra Cultural
Association, Bengali Association, Indian Women Association, Jain
Samaj Uganda, Kerala Samajam, Karnataka Sangha, Lohana Community,
Maharashtra Mandal, Ramgarhia Sikh Society, Sindhi Association Uganda,
Tamil Sangam, Youth League, Rajasthani Association, Arya Samaj,
Indian Catholic Community Uganda and Khoja Shia Ithnasheri Jamat.
are at least a dozen shrines set up by Indians, including a Jain
temple, a Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and a gurudwara in Kampala and
a Ganesh Mandir at Entebbe, the nearest town where Uganda's international
airport is located. There are also two churches and two mosques.
Indians control more and more businesses," said James Mwangi,
a Ugandan businessman who is into hospitality management. "So
many shops are run by Indians. As of now they are the largest expatriate
business community, ahead of even Kenyans." Kenya, a larger
and prosperous country, is Uganda's immediate neighbour.
working for multinationals in various capacities, Indians run pharmaceutical
stores, electronic and other shops, restaurants and bars, casinos,
printing presses, tour and travel agencies and hotels. Indian restaurants
do booming business - catering also to Ugandans and other expatriates.
Among the hotels are Govinda, Haandi, Nawab, Khana Khazana, Pavement
Tandoori and Kati Kati. There are also numerous Indian doctors.
Indian story was not as rosy three decades ago.
1972, Idi Amin, eager to cement his domestic base, ordered the expulsion
of all Indians, giving them just three months to quit, leaving behind
everything they owned. The Indians had to comply, leading to a virtual
collapse of the economy.
present Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, took power in 1986 and
began to actively woo the Indians again. He promised that Indians
who return will be restored the property they had lost. Indian diplomats
say he kept his pledge. However, most of the expelled Indians had
dug roots in Britain where they primarily went to and ignored his
appeals. Just 2,000 returned to Uganda. However, other Indians have
started to eye greener pastures in Uganda.
present government wants them to stay," an Indian diplomat
explained. This year, when an Indian was killed in mob violence
following rumours that a natural forest was to be converted into
a sugar factory, the authorities cracked down hard and fast and
arrested the rioters. They also promised protection to the Indian
minor irritants remain. Said an Indian from Tamil Nadu who did not
want to be quoted by name: "The locals like most of us. Unfortunately,
some Indians still don't treat Ugandans with respect. That is unfortunate."
businessman Mwangi disagreed. "I think relations between Ugandans
and Indians are excellent," he said. "The past is over.
Today Ugandan people want to benefit from Indian skills."