Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Adventures from the Archives Part I

Hello blog world!

Before we get into the actual article below, I just wanted to quickly thank all of you who have been been following the blog. I have been absolutely shocked and humbled by how many of you are taking the time to read these posts. It really does mean a lot to me and I truly appreciate all of your support and encouragement. As always, don't be shy to get in touch with me or ask questions. Now enough of this sappiness and on to the first article!

Uganda Argus, August 5th, 1972. 

Here is the first article in the Adventures from the Archives series. Naturally it seemed fitting to start with the original article from the Ugandan newspaper the Argus. It was on August 4th 1972 in an address to officiers and men of the Airborne Regiment at Tororo. Major General and President Idi Amin declared that there was no room in Uganda "for the over 80,000 Asians holding British passports who are sabotaging Uganda's economy and encouraging corruption" (Uganda Argus, August 5th, 1972). He also told his soldiers that "he wants to see that the economy of Uganda is in the hands of Uganda citizens, especially 'black Ugandans'" (Uganda Argus, August 5th, 1927).

So what? This article marks the beginning of the Asian exodus. Ugandan Asians had 90 days to get out of there or face drastic consequences. It ultimately marks the beginning of the entire process towards resettling Ugandan Asians and led to the dramatic scramble of not only my family but thousands of others to leave Uganda. However, we will see in other posts that in some instances not everyone believed the expulsion decree was going to last. Some believed it would be recanted and that they would be able to stay in Uganda.

There are a number of motives behind Amin's expulsion decree beyond that of economic sabotage. Here are just a few:

  • Amin criticized South Asians for their failure to integrate with black Ugandans which by and large was a fair assessment. There were seldom instances of intermarriage and collaboration between Ugandan Asians and black Ugandans (however, this issue does get more complicated when considering the colonial hierarchy created by British imperialists in Uganda which placed white British colonials at the top, brown South Asians in the middle, and black Ugandans at the bottom).  
  • He also wanted to 'Ugandanize' the economy by returning control of the commercial sector to black Ugandans who he viewed as true Ugandan citizens. 
  • Another reason presented by Amin was that God had advised him to expel the Asians from Uganda which was revealed to him in the from of a dream. 

What is particularly interesting within the initial expulsion decree made by President Amin is that he requests that his soldiers "assist him in defending the public against 'those people who are sabotaging the economy of Uganda. The troops must be prepared to arrest any saboteurs who are trying to undermine the economy of the country and to confuse the people" (Uganda Argus, August 5th, 1972). It is clear that the threat towards South Asians living in Uganda was very real. Even before this warrant to arrest South Asians in Uganda, Colin Legum, the Common Wealth Correspondent for The Observer, a newspaper based in London, argues that "Amin's soldiers are making conditions increasingly intolerable for Asian businessmen and their families. Many are forced to pay regular sums to officers and soldiers for protection; girls have been raped; men and women have been arrested; and a number of prominent leaders of the Asian community have simply disappeared without trace" (The Observer, August 6th, 1972). Even Mr. Kibedi, Uganda's Foreign Minister was quoted saying, "If they still remain [after the 90 day period in which they will be forced leave] they will soon see what happens to them" (Telegraph Group Limited, August 7th, 1972).

The threat of physical danger was real and 80,000 Ugandan Asians were now faced with the ultimatum of leaving the country within 90 days or else face the repercussions of remaining with the country. The actual number of 80,000 Ugandan Asians has been largely contested. Most newspaper articles and academic works draw an estimate of closer to 50,000. Ultimately, there were some Asians that remained in the country after the expulsion period upon the request of the President. He would soon come to realize that the expulsion decree would wreak havoc on Uganda's already fragile economy.

Stay tuned for more discoveries from the archives!    

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