gfiles magazine

August 14, 2012

Flight of the Asians

niranjan desai
August 8, 2012, marks the 40th anniversary of the infamous day when Idi Amin decreed that all Asians should leave Uganda within three months.
Idi Amin had come to power in Uganda through against the government of Milton Obote with surreptitious help from the British and Israeli governments. Ironically, most Asians in Uganda welcomed the changeover because they had been apprehensive of Obote’s socialistic moves under the banner of ‘Move to the Left’.
However, Amin’s erratic and whimsical way of governing soon created an undercurrent of unrest. Amin’s response was to turn the heat on the Asian community as a populist measure since, rightly or wrongly, the successful Asian community was also looked upon by a resentful majority as an alien exploitative group.
What followed was the uprooting of the over 50,000 strong Indian diaspora. Many had never been outside of Uganda or the other two countries of East Africa, Kenya and Tanzania. This was the second such mass expulsion of the Indian diaspora since Independence; the previous one being from Myanmar, then called Burma. I had an accidental opportunity to play some role in this by virtue of being the desk officer for East Africa at the Ministry of External Affairs. That story is recounted in my book.
For a young officer with just seven years in service suddenly being thrown into such a crisis situation was challenging and at the same time traumatic given the sudden tragic plight of one’s countrymen especially since many of them were relations or family acquaintances......READMORE

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