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Return to Uganda
The story of how Idi Amin ordered his country's Asian citizens to leave.
Last Modified: 26 Aug 2007 13:10 GMT


In August 1972, Uganda's president, Idi Amin, shocked the world by ordering all 80,000 Asian citizens out of his country. The dictator gave them just 90 days to get out at a time when many were under threat of rape, torture and even murder. People lost their homes, their businesses and their family fortunes in their rush to leave Uganda.

Farrah Esmail talks to the son of the man who
expelled her parents, Taban Amin
In Return to Uganda Farrah Esmail goes back to find her parents birth place in Uganda's capital city, Kampala. She finds their old family home, tries to understand why the expulsion took place and what it has meant to Uganda. And then, she talks to the son of the man who expelled her parents, a man some say may even be president himself one day, Taban Amin. 

Uganda's present government says it now welcomes Asians back to the country because it needs them to help restore a healthy economy. Thousands have made the trek back and some have done extremely well. But Return to Uganda also finds that invitation does not sit well with all Ugandans and that a deep seeded racism against the Asians still exists in the country. It is a situation that has recently erupted into violence.

This summer marks the 35th anniversary of Idi Amin's expulsion order, and Return to Uganda shows that Amin's decision still haunts the country all these decades later.

Watch Return To Uganda here:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Return to Uganda aired from 06 August 2007

Your comments

Thanks a million for airing the Return to Uganda programme. It is very well done. Being one of the Muslim victims of Idi Amin and his reign of terror myself, I applaud your efforts. In fact, the first volume of my published memoirs A Chameleon's Tale: True Stories of a Global Refugee that deals with the topic in much greater depth was published in June 2006 in USA and Thailand and was a finalist for the PEN book Award in New York in June 2007.
Mohezin Tejani, Thailand

I do not like you programme about our African hero Idi Amin. He was the only one who librated Africa. I believe he did the right thing for black African people. Indians came to Africa just to make money and to use Africa. How can we believe a programme presenter who came from one of the families that Mr Amin expelled from the country? I believe she is just biased toward her own people and is not saying the truth about how black Africans suffered under Asians in Uganda.
Elsharif, UK

Interesting subject. I was 15 when Tanzania followed Idi Amin, however in not a such a bold way. In those days, Asians in East Africa were very abusive towards the 'Black' Africans, they were racist and encouraged to be so through their leaders, and they followed the ways of the 'White man'. There was a reason, a good one to throw these people out, we were lucky that the Africans did not kill us. There are always two sides to a story.
Karim

I saw the programme Return to Uganda early this morning on my way to work and I was somewhat disappointed at the impression that Ms Farrah Esmail took of Uganda. I agree that there are some elements within any society that exhibit racist tendencies, and I condemn the killing of anyone, but surely that bigotry cannot be representative of the whole. Ugandans pride themselves on being open and friendly people. There is always another side to every story.
Ezra, Uganda

I would like to make a comment on Farrah Esmail's documentary. I believe if you come to a country to prove a fact that Ugandan Asians who were expelled during Idi Amin's reign have never been received well, then you will find it....and you did, from a very small minority! But you never interviewed a good portion of Ugandans whose minds have been liberated from this racism against Asians for their views such as myself and many other elite Ugandans. I do not deny that what occurred during the Mabira forest incident early this year where a few Asians were killed was a shame and totally unacceptable. But there are many of us who have received the Asian community and have become friends with them and also have admired their hard work values which have encouraged other local Ugandans to rise up and achieve. I am very disappointed at how you have given a large percentage of very biased information. You should do better and enough research than have a few individuals speak for a whole country of 23 million Ugandans.
Kamikazi, Uganda

Farrah, It is quite fascinating what you have gone through, especially your family, but allow me to put this right. Absolutely no one understands his home better than you do. It was a very shameful incident that took place. The late president was only surrounded by "tiny" thinkers, the majority of whom ill advised him on how to run the affairs of the country. At that time my parents were for many years in a refugee camp in Tanzania only to grow from there and slowly start to understand the whole situation back home. So many other Ugandans did the same. However with a better government today they are so happy to be back, settled and proud to be Ugandan. Your family can do the same and even get back their property just as Ria Kudji, Mukwano, Metah and many others have done very easily with their evidence of ownership. Please let no one mislead you, Ugandans are the most hospitable people compared to other African countries - a testimony you can get from all foreigners who have been here and others have got citizenship. You too can go back to your home, your motherland. Come and we can build a better Uganda than before and you will meet others who have returned back home.
Okoroi, Uganda

Al Jazeera is a breath of fresh air in the world of TV but when I watched the Return to Uganda documentary I was horrified. Esmail's documentary was unlike the Al Jazeera that I have come to love. i)The education system is in shambles: Really? As a Computer Science student, I did a project at the main medical school computer laboratory and one out of every 10 medical students using the lab is Asian. ii)The Ugandan government is one that doesn't enjoy that much support in the city (forget about what officials tell you) and 'everybody here' feels that certain Asian personalities are 'major financiers' of the current regime. Naturally this leads to ill-feeling towards Asians as a whole and when there is a chance for the 'disadvantaged' to take out their anger, Asians will be a primary target. I believe that the worst thing that some sectors of the Asian community have done is involvement in our 'frighteningly partisan' politics. In fact the backlash could even be worse. iii) Talking to Taban Amin: What do you expect any right thinking son to say about his father? iv) You walk into a house that is occupied by somebody else (whether rightly or wrongly) uninvited and expect to be welcome. Does the word TRESPASS or COURTESY mean a thing to you? Lastly, Idi Amin was a goon. No apologies for that. That doesn't make me one although I am Ugandan. Some of us are average, simple Ugandans who have been forced to stay clear of our "unique politics". Maybe the members of the Asian community may borrow a leaf from us.
Alex, Uganda

I am an ex-Ugandan, who went back to Uganda in 2001 with the 'British Trade Mission'. As I was the only Asian in this particular 'Mission', and most of the guests invited for a reception at the residence of the 'British High Commissioner' were aware of the fact that there was an ex-Ugandan Asian among them, I attracted a lot of attention from some of the important Ugandan officials attending this reception. I was approached by a lady representing 'Uganda Investment Authority' and had a lengthy conversation, often in Swahili (which I am still fluent at), asking me to return to Uganda to do the business, but after about 30 years of absence from Uganda, I explained to her that it was not possible as our social and cultural life had been destroyed and we had built up our cultural and social lives in our countries of residence after leaving Uganda and it is impossible to revert back as our children would not like us to return for good to Uganda. When I pointed out to her that new Asians had come to Uganda from India and Pakistan, why not help them? Her answer was simple, the original Ugandan Asians had real heart in the country where they were born!
Jagdish Bulsara, UK

As a Ugandan, I very much support the coming back of Asians to my country but about the violence, it is important to note the problems in my country. One thing about Ugandans is that they are friendly people and to be in their country and be a part of them, you have got to be willing to interact freely with them; something that the Asians here have found challenging. And about the violence it was all because of a protest against the government selling forest land to Asians who wanted to invest in it; something that was not welcomed by the Ugandans and hence the violence which turned as a result of the government not reacting soon enough.
Lukwanzi Sharifah, Uganda

News Flash, Uganda is an African country. Many countries have foreign ownership laws, why is it racist when Africans exercise it?
Kaswende via YouTube

This is called ethnic cleansing, and is completely appalling. Idi Amin was nothing but a tyrant. So if we all act the same way you are suggesting then we should kick every African out of Europe and send them all back with nothing but the shirt on their back. The main thing that has led to the economic meltdown of Uganda is the Ugandans!
peterdavuk via YouTube
 
This is Africa not India or Pakistan. You don't see Africans running businesses in Delhi and Karachi, why should they run our economy? When night falls they take their money to their community. Asians in Kenya, Uganda and elsewhere in Africa are mini capitalist parasites. Their goal is to exploit poor Africans. Out, out, out of Africa!
gaajo99 via YouTube

Indians in Uganda, Jews in Europe...what is the difference? This is not a racist account, it's a story about racist violence instituted by a racist man: Idi Amin. Indians are very industrious people when they need to be, just as any other culture can be when they need to be. This account is well done, well stated and a warning to anyone who opts to try to restart their lives in a foreign country.
rob20061906 via YouTube

I'm talking about the Asians leaving Kenya. The Kenyan government forced the Asian business people out of the country, similar to what has happened in Uganda (except not as bloody). They left with little more than the shirts on their backs. The Kenyans were not used to dealing with the infrastructure that the Asians had set up, and the economy suffered badly.
n68firebird via YouTube
 
The old 'them & us' syndrome. The Ugandans will always resent the Indians as long as they (the Indians) are making more money.
hoomelemele via YouTube

Great job. A classic point of view documentary that provokes debate so congratulations for letting your correspondent personalise her work. And special kudos to the camera operator, editor (brilliant!) and producer. Why doesn't Al Jazeera credit the people behind the scenes? They sure deserve it. Anyway, I loved the programme. Lets see more of this correspondent.
stonepierre via YouTube

I think we as Asians should thank Idi Amin for kicking us out. Because we are today living a much better life in Western countries than in Uganda.
chimmed via YouTube

She is telling the traumatic story of her family's painful experiences...it is a well done account. Well done and a very important account during a very bad time for Uganda.
rob20061906 via YouTube

This is a brilliant programme, extremely brave to put your own family in it, touching on personal experiences only makes the subject more poignant. I know several Indian families who now live in England because of their expulsion from Uganda in 1972. This programme brought them to tears, remembering the hardships they had to go through and how they lost absolutely everything. Without a doubt the best programme I have seen on Al Jazeera. Congratulations, brilliant journalism!
duncsp via YouTube


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