Race relations

Uganda: Will Indians’ economic success trigger a new racial explosion?

By Musinguzi Blanshe

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Posted on August 23, 2022 11:09

Businessman of Asian origin serves a customer in his store in Kampala
Jay Shree (R), a businessman of Asian origin, serves a customer in his store in Kampala April 13, 2007. REUTERS/Euan Denholm (UGANDA)

This month marks 50 years since dictator Idi Amin expelled tens of thousands of Indians from the country, arguing that he was delivering the “fruits of independence” to native Africans.

President Yoweri Museveni reversed the order when he took power in 1986, criticising Amin’s decision and crediting Gujaratis for having played a lead role in Uganda’s economic development.

Thousands of South Asians have since returned, often finding business success that has benefited the country — while also fueling racial tensions and warnings of another explosion in waiting.

Railway labourers

The words Indian and Asian are used interchangeably in reference to natives of the Indian subcontinent brought to East Africa by the British colonial government. Some 32,000 labourers were brought to the continent under indentured labour contracts for construction of the Uganda railway starting in the 1890s.

Ugandan historian Samwiri Lunyiigo, author of the 2022 book Uganda: An Indian Colony 1897-1972, argues that following completion of the railway, the British gave Indians who settled in Uganda

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