The Asian Community in Uganda

Uganda had a small Asian community from the 1890s, when men had been hired as labourers to work on railway construction.

The Asian population survived and prospered and by the time of Ugandan independence in 1962 they played a vital role in the Ugandan economy.

On August 4th 1972, Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin gave the Asian community 90 days’ notice to leave.

Jinja Sugar Factory, 1960s

Jinja Sugar Factory, 1960s

Asian community leaders meet with Idi Amin in Jinja, early 1940s

Asian community leaders meet with Idi Amin in Jinja, early 1940s

Idi Amin Announcement 4th August 1972

 ‘Last Friday I announced the decision of my government to ask the British government to take over the responsibility for the British citizens of Asian origin living in Uganda who were sabotaging the economy of this country.’

Faizal Kapasi remembered:
“We never expected that he would do it to his own citizens, because a number of Asians were Ugandan citizens, but the man that he was very unpredictable and his reason was that he got a dream.”

Asian families were only allowed to take out fifty five pounds and forced to leave almost everything behind. Some families were temporarily split up whilst paperwork and accommodation were arranged.

Jaffer Kapasi and his classmates in Uganda, late 1960s

Jaffer Kapasi and his classmates in Uganda, late 1960s

Jaffer Kapassi (right) and his father Akbarali-Alibhai in their hardware store Uganda, 1971

Jaffer Kapassi (right) and his father Akbarali-Alibhai in their hardware store Uganda, 1971

Long queues for exit visas and plane tickets were just one part of the trauma that the community faced. Looting and theft were widespread in the towns and villages. Even on the final journey roadblocks were set up on the road to

Entebbe airport where people were searched, robbed and sometimes assaulted by Amin’s soldiers.

As young boys Paresh and Bhauvesh Vaja remembered:
“Basically they (the soldiers) wanted all the money or gold that the Indians had collected and they came to the coach and said ‘ok whatever you got, let us have it’.

One person, there always has to be one, there was one person who had a chip on his shoulder and thought he was bigger than them and started having a go. And he was like refusing and he was creating a problem for everybody else.”

Bank of Uganda, Kampala

Bank of Uganda, Kampala

Workers at Ford Factory Kampala, 1960s

Workers at Ford Factory Kampala, 1960s