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Indian Africa

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Adam Michel

Migrations and Identity of Indian-Pakistani Minorities in Uganda

Godfrey B. Asiimwe

Texte intégral

  • 1 The author would like to sincerely thank all his Ugandan Asian contact persons for trusting him and (...)
  • 2 This research is based on documentary data, especially data dating from the earliest period as well (...)

1Stakeholders in the national society, the Ugandan Indians were brutally expelled by dictator Idi Amin in 19721. However, they began returning to Uganda in the early 1990s and have, over the years, become a powerful minority group, ensuring their sustainability through a combination of hard work, prudence and political acumen2.

  • 3 In order to put an end to some controversies, it goes without saying that Indians must not be consi (...)

2The history of the Indian diaspora in Uganda began with British colonization3. From the earliest days of colonial occupation, the British administrators made use of temporary Indian workers as well as mercenaries from the North of the subcontinent. These troops then remained in the country for more than a quarter century. This explains why Indian soldiers were used to overcome the resistance of Kings Kabalega of Bunyoro and Mwanga of Buganda. According to Mangat:

In 1895, a contingent of three hundred Punjabi troops from India regiment was sent to Uganda to join the colonial army. In 1897, Major Macdonald, commander of the colonial forces in Uganda, received thirty Sikhs, recruited specifically for Uganda. In the same year another one hundred and fifty troops were dispatched from India to Uganda. In 1898, four hundred more troops found their way into Uganda (Mangat 1969).

  • 4 Other indentured labourers were recruited on contract terms at the same time in British Guyana (239 (...)

3Taking over from merchants that had already settled in the coastal towns of Lamu, Pate, Malindi, Mombasa, Pemba, Zanzibar, Bagamoyo and Dar-es-Salaam, several waves of Indian immigrants followed the railway line from Mombasa to Lake Victoria and to other pioneer colonial towns that were coming up. They were workers and maintenance staff, masons, wheelwrights, carpenters, tailors, nurses, laundry workers, secretaries and teachers, not to mention the small traders attracted by the prospects that the new colony was opening to the outside world. Regardless of this spontaneous immigration, the contract system of recruitment used in the construction of the railway became the alternative form of work after the abolition of slavery (Tinker 1974, Saunders 1984, Northrup 1995)4. India was chosen as the preferred source of manpower because for many centuries, it had a large number of skilled workers who were already popular with the British and were frequently under employed (Tinker 1974: 41-61). Other authors compared Indians to native Africans, noting that Indians were “more qualified and effective” while Africans were “indolent” and “rebellious to work”. In this regard, Lugard wrote: “Such a judgment (concerning natives’ capacity for hard work) is fully justified seeing that the savages’ needs are limited solely to their daily food, which can be supplied without efforts due to soil fertility” (Lugard 1893: 471). In accordance with this contrasting and dividing representation of populations subjected to colonial rule, the British used it to impose a strict separation between communities (Gregory 1971: 51; 1993: 160).

4After completion of the railway construction in 1902, a small percentage of workers required on-site, opted to remain in East Africa. In subsequent years, new immigrants – mostly traders – settled in Uganda. In 1911, the number of Indians in the country was a total of 1 852 men and 364 women. As their business prospered, they called on their family and community relatives to send new immigrants from India in form of employees and associates (Nabudere 1980: 73-74; Mamdani 1976: 69, 80). Using their savings, they in turn established new shops (duka), thus ensuring that small scale Indian traders were present in the hinterland (dukuwallah). The Indian immigration in Uganda continued to be encouraged by the colonial officials. In the early twentieth century, Commissioner Sir Harry Johnston said that he wanted Indians to play an intermediary role “between Africans and Europeans.” While there were few British traders in the colony, the Indians, with whom the colonial administration had very old relations, were considered the most likely to encourage African people to open up to the money market (Morris 1968).

  • 5 Commissioner Sandler’s statement, General report on the Ugandan protectorate, Africa, XII, 1904, Cd (...)
  • 6 Allidina Visram died in 1916.

5Many Indians living in Uganda were instrumental in transforming the country as agents of the new economic order imposed by the colonial administration. Sheth Allidina Visram Lalji may be cited as an example in this regard. He was born in India in 1851 to an Ismailia family and arrived in Africa at the age of twelve. He was first employed by Indian traders and later opened his own shop in 1877 in Bagamoyo, a coastal city in Tanzania located opposite Zanzibar. He was a versatile trader who dealt in cloves, ivory and paraffin products collected in Africa and exchanged in India for fabrics. He also specialized in supplies for hunting expeditions and safaris. When the construction of the railway began, Allidina established his base in Mombasa and opened many shops designed to provide food and other necessities to Indian workers on site. His business empire can be currently considered as the pioneer mode of “chain stores” because it soon exceed 200 “branches”, scattered in Eastern and Central Africa. This position earned Allidina the title of “uncrowned king of East Africa”. After opening a retail shop in Kampala, he embarked on buying, ginning and exportation of cotton, an activity that gave him access to remote areas. At the end of 1904, he put up trading posts in the West of the colony. He agreed to buy locally and at fixed prices, all products presented to him. When competitors come between him and sellers5, he paid for the goods through an auction system. The business mainly belonged to the family and was expanded by several relatives and close friends. His consortium peaked just before the World War I began. This event abruptly crushed his investments6.

Indian heritage in Uganda

  • 7 Sunday Magazine, 12 December 2004.
  • 8 Statement by Kripal Sigh on 19th May 2006, Appollo Kagwa road.

6The Indian identity in Uganda can be seen in most public areas in the country, especially in Kampala and its suburbs, where many streets and squares are named (or were until recently named) after eminent Indians. One of Kampala’s busiest streets, the current Luwum Street – formerly Bokasa Street (named after dictator Idi Amin’s former friend) – was originally called Allidina Visram because he established the first business in this city as previously mentioned7. At Buziga, a suburb of Kampala, Ramathan Gava Street is a reminder of the person who, in the 1950s, spearheaded the construction of Nabisunsa and Kibuli, the first Muslim secondary schools in Uganda. Another street (Shimoni road), owes its name to Shimoni islands where former Indian railway workers previously stayed. In Bugolobi, another suburb of Kampala, the Bandali Rise evokes memories of Bandali Jaffer, a former cotton exporter who arrived in Kampala in 1895 and whose son, Bandali Sherali Jaffer, now owns Fairway Hotel. In the old city of Kampala, where most Indians still live, there are other public areas bearing Indian names, such as the Delhi gardens and Rashid Khamis Street. According to one of our informants, Bamunanika village that is located in Luwero District owes its name to a guru called Baba Nanak, who was the first Indian to visit this place8. Indians have settled in many urban and commercial centres, and their socio-spatial organization has not changed since the beginning. In some towns, there were distinct residential areas separately meant for Europeans and Indians and were popularly called Kijungu (for Whites) and Kiyindi (for Indians). Behind these two urban strata, there were, and still are, residential areas meant for African workers and small scale traders, who are generally restricted in suburbs such as Kartwe in Kampala or Kitoro in Entebbe. After the expulsion of Indians in 1972, some African suburbs, as Kitoro in Entebbe became more active because Indian businesses were taken over by Africans.

The Indian success

7Some history books defend the thesis that courage, business intuition and manoeuvring skills are behind the economic success of East African Indians. In particular, these research works highlight the contrast that exists between the laborious austerity among Indian families on one hand and the ostentatious lifestyle of European settlers, or the “the natives indolence”. The same Africans later became envious of property acquired by representatives of the diaspora. Such views underscore the determination, energy and strength of character shown by the early Indian traders, whether it is the famous Allidina Visram as already mentioned, or simple small scale shopkeepers, “men without capital, but with a lot of initiative”, who brought modern goods up to the “most remote areas” (Ramchandani 1976: 86; Abidi 1996). Without abandoning the colonial era negative representation, the historian Ramchandani wrote: “Indians established their businesses in every corner of the Karamoja, the protectorate’s isolated North-eastern region where one still finds tribes of naked women and men like worms similar to those living in the Stone Age” (Ramchandani 1976: 86). Vali Jamal, another historian of Indian origin, says that Indians have the capacity to work hard for long hours, to live modestly without comfort and without ostentation and can live on local foodstuff as well as on other local products. According to the same author, this explains why they have the capacity to save. Jamal continues saying that “even in the consumption of necessities, their share (the Indians) was much lower than that of the other races” (Jamal 1976: 605).

8The logic behind the Indians’ commercial expansion (usually belonging to the family or the community) is based on the principle of hierarchical network where the network leader (entrepreneur, wholesale merchant) places new immigrant dependants in strategic positions. Thus Mamdani underlines the fact – though this is often overlooked - that the early dukawallah was a commercial worker or a businessman’s agent, rather than an independent entrepreneur” (Mamdani 1976: 80):

At first, as the wholesaler extended his operations he encouraged his poor relations from India to join him as assistants to run his shops; later, as prosperity became plenty, the circle of relations extended to the community of caste or sect fellows. The wholesaler also supplied and bought from small but semi-independent dukawallahs who acted as his agents. He supplied them with a variety of imports, which they sold in return for local produce that he marketed internationally. The agent was tied to the wholesaler not as an employee but by chains of credit. More often than not, he was a caste fellow who had been encouraged to migrate from India to East Africa. (Mamdani 1976: 80)

9When the dukawallah saves enough money to settle independently, he in turn sets up a community network to recruit his employees and commercial dependants. Mamdani affirms that:

Nasser Virjee came to East Africa as an assistant to Allidina Visram in the 1890s and by 1910 he had established his own shop and was setting up branches and importing assistants himself. Karmali Alibhai, who arrived in 1910 as an employee of Nasser Virjee had by the 1920s himself become a dukawallah (Mamdani 1976: 81).

  • 9 It is important to mention Vithaldas Haridas, Jamal Walji and Haji Adam among other eminent Ugandan (...)

10In 1954, the 5819 licensed traders of the Uganda colony belonged to 32 different castes and communities. But 70 % of them (4011) came from only three socio-religious groups: Hindu Lohanas, Hindu Patels and Ismailia Shia Muslims (Mamdani, 1976: 81). It is within these groups that a rich Indian Ugandan business class came up, and this class is currently the proprietor of major family business empires. There are examples of names like Jayant and Ronak Madhvani (Lohana), Nanji Kalidas Metha (Lohana) or Ali Mohamed Karmali (Ismailia). The forefather of the Madhvani arrived in Uganda in the early years of the twentieth century and established one of the leading industrial groups in the country; Nanji Kalidas Mehta became a famous sugar producer; in 1904, Ali Mohamed Karmali was a low cadre employee in a shop in Jinja. He later established an important coffee and cotton trade. Karmali’s name was so popular that Ugandans nicknamed him Mukwano gwa bangi (meaning a “friend of many people”). The short form of the nickname, “Mukwano” subsequently became the name of his business empire9.

  • 10 Demanding equal representation like Europeans, Indians refused the seat up to 26th May 1926 when th (...)

11Another explanation for the economic success of Indians in Uganda lies in the facilities that were given to them by the British at a time when there was strict discrimination between ethnic groups. While Africans were subjected to the role of producing basic goods, Indians were put in an intermediary position, allowing them access to the public service and this in turn gave them lucrative commercial and industrial openings. While the Indian trade made good use of numerous regulatory measures introduced by the colonial power (in terms of access to credit, taxation, licenses and other forms of control), they were the biggest obstacle in the promotion of African trade (Ehrich 1965, Brett 1973; Zwanenberg & King 1975; Mamdani 1976: 72; Okereke 1978; Nabudere 1980, Asiimwe 2007). Although relegated to second place behind the European minority, Indians again benefited from political benefits that were denied to Africans. For example they got a seat in the Legislative Council when it was established in 192110.

12The strategic intermediary position occupied by the Indian community ensured its economic eminence and personal enrichment, though it also posed a serious danger. By putting Asians in direct contact with Africans, this intermediary position made them more unpopular among the latter while on the other hand, Europeans remained relatively distanced from Africans.

The Asian’s great liability well has been their visibility. As a mercantile class dealing with African peasants, often as the representative of foreign capital, they played an all too conspicuous role in the local economy; when Africans were faced with falling prices for their crops or rising costs in the towns, the agents who they confronted were the Asian middlemen (Mittelman 1975: 229).

Relations between Indians and Africans during the colonial period

  • 11 Survey done in 2006.

13From the beginning of the colonial era, a section of Indians shared common religions with some Africans: Christianity (mainly Roman Catholic Goans from the Indian side) and Islam (though among Indians, these were divided between Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims who were nonetheless hardly represented among African Muslims). On their part, Hindus had no African followers. Furthermore, it is well known that African societies – just like societies with Christian and Islamic traditions – do not recognize the principle of castes, a situation that deepened socio-cultural differences between Indians and Africans. However, within the Muslim community, followers belonging to distinct communities were likely to participate together in the same rituals. For example this was the case with Sunni followers of Alidina Visram mosque in the old town of Kampala. Although few in number, there were also African Ahmadiyya movement followers, a tiny Muslim group from India. On their part, the Shia Ismailia had very few followers of African origin (and do not have much today). Taken over by Sunni Ugandans after the expulsion of Indians in 1972, the Ismailia mosque in Kampala was returned to the Aga Khan followers after their return to Uganda. Since then, the Ismailia are working with Sunni Muslims in various charitable organizations11.

14Apart from the religious sphere, relationships between Indians and Africans were confined to two areas that were generally quite limited, but both characterized by inequality: the hierarchical relationship between employer, and employee and the unequal economic relation between the seller and the buyer. Grouped in the same residential areas (like the old town of Kampala), Indians hardly entertained personal relationships with Africans, including those who worked for them as employees in their firms or domestic staff. The colonial policy of dividing communities gave Indians an ethnic identity which reinforced class division, and whose presence was very distinctive.

15Three examples illustrate the first situation characterizing the relationship between employers and employees. In the public service, Africans were frequently placed under the supervision of Indian managers (bwana); in Indian families, African women house helps (ayah) were at the service of Indian mistresses (mem-sahib); in businesses and industries, almost all of the junior staff was made up of Africans. Regarding relations between sellers and buyers, Indian traders were faced with poorly educated Africans who had very low purchasing power in an area characterized by irregular transactions in a monopolistic system aimed at profit maximization.

16Due to cultural differences and matrimonial taboos that were in force among Indians, there were also few or no marriages between Indians and Africans. Relationships between men and women from the two communities were limited to a few informal and semi-clandestine couples or to the existence of mixed-race children born of Indian men with African prostitutes.

  • 12 About stereotypes, read Ocaya-Lakidi (1975: 95).

17It was however possible to encounter cases of business association or even forms of non-professional relationships between Indians and Africans. Thus, among Africans, quite a few well-to-do farmers or parsimonious employees enlisted the help of Indian traders to open retail outlets. Similarly, former ayahs and other domestic house helps in Indian families remained grateful to their former employers and maintained links with them. However, it must be admitted that these examples were frequently contradicted by testimonies of African peasants complaining of fraudulent transactions committed by Indian buyers or statements by former African employees evoking abuse and poor treatment from their Indian bosses. Although it is difficult to make stereotypes out of these judgments (this justified Amin Dada’s expulsion measures), the sociocultural confinement of Indians has been sufficiently documented by many researchers. It is thus unnecessary to rewrite everything in detail (also see O’Brien 1972: 27)12. For example, Mittelman notes that:

“Asians and Africans interacted in the market place, but relations rarely extended beyond those of buyer-seller and master-servant. Their culture made the Asians a separate community; they were an exclusive and excluded minority. Their traditions of endogamy, restrictive social networks, and family firms sustained by loyalties of kinship contribution to intercommunal rivalries” (Mittelman 1975: 229).

18In his research on this issue, Rohit Barot also emphasizes the social confinement of Indians:

“Although Bakuli is often regarded as an African area, social contact between Indians and Africans, apart from their brief encounters in shops, is non-existent. During my stay there was no single instance of an Indian knowing an African as an equal or a friend. Separation and distance between the two sides is a marked feature of life in Bakuli” (Barot 1975).

19As noted by another author, divisive protection and the strict endogamous behavior were not exclusive to Indian communities in Uganda, but were and are still observable in other regions like Bradford (Great Britain), or Vancouver or Toronto where there is substantial immigration of Indian origin. “In any case, this was a unique emigration in that an entire community re-located itself lock, stock and barrel, to carry on pretty much as before” (Siddiqi 2002).

Indians and politics at Independence

  • 13 After the Second World War, Britain needed manpower to restart its economy. Thus, the British Natio (...)

20The vicissitudes of the anti-colonial struggle and the prospects for independence were the source of inconvenience for the Indians in Uganda. They were thus the major target of the 1945 and 1949 riots during which several of them died. The result was that some Indians took advantage of the 1948 British law on nationality by soliciting acquisition of British passports. From 1962, however, the British legislation became more restrictive, designating birth and descent as the only criteria for automatic acquisition of citizenship. The aim was to regulate the immigration of Commonwealth citizens in Great Britain13. These protectionist measures came at a time when the number of applicants for emigration was increasing, thus proving accusations that Ugandan Indians could have behaved in a “non-citizen” manner. Stressing the fact that Indians were beneficiaries of colonial rule, independent Uganda political leaders gave Indians who were not Ugandan citizens up to two years to acquire Ugandan citizenship. However, only a minority of them agreed to respond to this proposal. According to census figures of 1969, only a third of Indians were Ugandan citizens (25,657 out of 74,308), while the remaining two thirds (48,651) were British, Indian or Pakistani passport holders (Mittelman 1975: 228). There is no doubt that the refusal by a large majority of Indians to acquire Ugandan citizenship increased their vulnerability at that time, creating a perception that they were not willing to belong to the new nation. Such an attitude was later undoubtedly used by some African political leaders as a pretext to justify the expropriation measures taken against “non-citizens holding significant positions in the national economy”.

21As already mentioned, if the Indians were used by the colonial government to serve its political interests, it is only fair to note that some of them were in solidarity with Africans and participated actively in the country’s political activities. Sugraben Allidina Visram, Allidina Visram’s great grand-son’s wife, was for example, a National Legislative Council member as a representative of the Buganda Kingdom Kabaka Yekka (KY) party. Mr. Patel, a Ugandan Indian now retired in Australia, was the first speaker of the Ugandan Parliament. Other Indians such Bandali Sherali Jaffer and Allidina were councillors in the city of Kampala from the early sixties.

Expulsion and the return of Indians

  • 14 This is to thank the British for the welcome; this was during the meeting with President Yoweri Mus (...)
  • 15 Interviews of April 2006. Babhubhai Ruparel and Sharda Nandlal Karia were determined not to abandon (...)

22As mentioned earlier, Uganda had about 75,000 Indians belonging to different religious and statutory communities before the expulsion of August 1972. Most of them were descendants (second or third generation) of pioneer Indians. The expulsion within 90 days was ordered by Idi Amin Dada. The subsequent settlement of Indians as refugees in host countries was a painful experience that left scars in the memories of families (see Mamdani, 1976). In 1997, expelled Indians who settled in the UK still commemorated the event’s anniversary by celebrating a service at Westminster Abbey14. However, at the time of expulsion, a minority of about a hundred people decided to remain in the country. The testimony of some of them suggests that this tiny fraction of the old diaspora was not subjected to any animosity from the people15. Mr. Sharda Nandlal Karia, the head of Sanatan Dharma Mandal Temple, relates the following testimony:

  • 16 Hinduism Today, December 1994.

“We had no problem of any kind after the majority left. There were no restrictions of any nature. We could travel and exchange money freely. The life was very good after the initial turmoil. There were no robberies or violence of any type. This is a proof that there was no racial hatred.”16

  • 17 Abidi, interview on 4th May 2006.

23While the influence exerted by Indians on the national economy was a reality in independent Uganda, their mass expulsion was a political populist measure since it gave a section of the new regime’s social class access to certain business activities. While acknowledging the fact that some of the Africans beneficiaries made the most of the commercial operation, one of the expelled witnesses said that it was brutal and unjust and denounced its negative consequences (clear reduction of economic activities, rising corruption, etc.)17.

  • 18 Also Hinduism Today, December 1994.
  • 19 Among the 22 people interviewed, 10 came back between 1986 and 1995 and 8 from 1995 to 2006. In spi (...)
  • 20 Interview with Bhikhbhai Patel on 10th April 2006.

24After the fall of Idi Amin, only a section of expelled Indians returned to Uganda. In the early 1980s their number grew up to about one thousand (Oonk 2004: 53)18. Having succeeded Idi Amin, Milton Obote’s government did not commit itself on the return of the Indians, but had to face many external pressures from international donors, which imposed this measure as a condition of their financial support. With Yoweri Museveni coming to power in 1986, the return of Indians was confirmed. More Indians came back in 1993 after the government had guaranteed former property owners that the expropriated property would be returned to them (Asiimwe, 2007). Among the 22 people we interviewed, 10 returned to settle in Uganda between 1986 and 1995, and 8 returned between 1995 and 200619. On this occasion, several Kampala streets whose names had been changed reverted to their old names. For example, Nakivubo Street was renamed Swaminarayan Street20.

25It is now difficult to assess the current number of Indians on the Ugandan territory. This number has received several mismatched estimates though. In 2002, the Ugandan government census estimated the population of Indians in the country to be 8,818 people, broken down as follows:

  • Rural areas: 944 (men: 569; women: 375)
  • Urban Areas: 7,874 (men: 4682; women: 3,192)21.
  • 22 Lacey, Goanet News, 2003.
  • 23 According to our own informers, the total number of Indians in Uganda today could be between 13,000 (...)

26According to the Goanet News newspaper, this figure was far less than the reality on the ground. In 2003, this newspaper proposed that people of Indian origin in Uganda were about 15,00022. This figure is almost exactly what our own informants23 suggested. In line with this assessment, the population of the Indian community is currently about 20 % of the total Indians before the expulsion. Regardless of the estimated resident population, immigration figures on arrival and departure from 2000 to 2004 also provide more information on trends as shown in Table 9.1 below:

Table 9.1 Indians ’arrival at and departure from Ugandan border points, 2000-2004

Table 9.1 Indians ’arrival at and departure from Ugandan border points, 2000-2004

Source: Migration and Tourist Report (1V), 2000-2004, Uganda Bureau of Statistics, August 2005, 27: 39-47.

27With the exception of 2001 (the presidential elections year), the information in the table shows a growing movement of people as far as arrivals and departures are concerned. There is also a positive balance of arrivals for all five years (4,435 persons for a period of 5 years). In addition, the table shows a growth among the male population, which is a demographic characteristic common to all immigration situations.

  • 24 Thus, according to our informants, the 700 Hindu Patels or the 500 Ismaili Muslims only account for (...)
  • 25 Interview on 16th May 2006, Kira road.

28It is a known fact that Ugandan Indians are members of several associations representing various communities. From the national allegiance perspective, these associations have a completely mixed character in that the distribution of citizenship identities widely corresponds to individual choice24.Among the 22 people who responded to our questions, 14 (64 %) are Indian citizens, 2 (9 %) (are) British, 1 (5 %) (is) Tanzanian, 1 (5 %) Kenyan and 1 (5 %) Ugandan. However, it is important to note that 2 people (9 %) describe their citizenship status as half Ugandan and half Indian. One of them explains: “Though I have an Indian passport, I am a Ugandan citizen by residence”25. Another interviewee said that his political status is double, although it is not recognized in Uganda. Apparently, the citizenship distribution of the population sample we randomly interviewed reflects the overall distribution of the Indian population currently in Uganda.

  • 26 The Weekly Observer, 2, 4th-10th August 2005: 32-33.
  • 27 Sunday Vision, 12th December 2004.

29The few Indians who remained in Uganda after the expulsion or those who returned to Uganda after the fall of the Amin regime often express their love for this country. Two of the 22 respondents came to Uganda between 1980 and 1985 under the Obote government. However, their willingness to settle there permanently has not yet been firmly established. The first one is a Tanzanian Indian businesswoman who, just like her family, was not expelled. The other one, Jos Almeida, is a retired teacher aged 71. He is a former teacher at the Lohana Academy in Kampala and his father arrived in Uganda in 1910. Born in Nsambya hospital in Kampala in 1924, Bandali Sherali Jaffer represents the third figure of return to the mother land. After studying in an Ismailia school in Kampala, he became a prominent member of the Kampala City Council, then Member of Parliament for Kampala West in 1962. After the expulsion of 1972, he resorted to farming in Canada. In 1981, just one year after the fall of Amin, Bandali Jaffer returned to his homeland. His six children do not understand why their father was so determined to return to Uganda26. But Jaffer is deeply committed to Uganda because it has links with his ancestors’ history. According to the Sunday magazine known as the Sunday Vision, one of the Bugolobi hills in Kampala was named Bandali Rise in memory of a certain Bandali, whose son Sherali Jaffer Bandali was adopted by a Ugandan entrepreneur, Hajji Musa Kasule. Jaffer Bandali became prosperous. He built the Fairway Hotel and greatly contributed to the development of Muslim education, especially by fast tracking the construction of Muslim schools Nabisunsa and Kibuli27. About his nostalgic attachment to Uganda, Sherali Jaffer Bandali says:

  • 28 The Weekly Observer, 2,4th-10th August 2005: 32-33.

I was born there; I have my friends there, my African friends, all attachment to Uganda. And I like to be in Uganda and I might wish one day that I die in Uganda. I have got a very good business in Canada. I am one of the biggest poultry farmers in Canada. So money is not the problem. My poultry farm in Canada makes more money and gives me less headache… . My father came from India about 110 years ago… . He was not a rich man. He rode a bicycle from Kampala to Luwero, bought cotton and sold it in Kampala28

  • 29 Gabiraani, The New Vision, 28th October 1993: 15. Other properties are still in the hands of Kampal (...)
  • 30 See Sherali Bandali Jaffer on this issue, The Weekly Observer, 4th -10th August 2005: 32.
  • 31 Interview with an Indian leader on 10th April 2006.

30The fact that certain Indians had property and had committed major investments in Uganda largely contributed to their return immediately after the fall of Idi Amin’s government. This was of course what descendants of the main Ugandan Indian entrepreneurs did. Roni, Manubhai and Prataphbhai Madhvani, heirs to the Madhvani family or better still Alikhan and Amirali Karmali from Ali Mohamed Karmali’s family (Mukwano’s) returned to Uganda to reclaim their businesses. An evaluation done in 1993 estimated that less than 20 % of the Indian property’s value was still unclaimed and unreturned29. This confirms that Indians owning property in the country came back to settle in large numbers. Conversely, indications are that the fraction of those who never returned to Uganda (80 % of former residents) did not have much property in Uganda or escaped with it. Refusing to go back to Uganda can thus be explained by this fact, together with other already mentioned factors (trauma of the expulsion, feeling of insecurity on the part of non-Ugandan citizens, etc.). As for the expelled Indians who obtained citizenship of Western countries, most of them have better living conditions than if they were to return to Uganda30. In addition, one of the interviewees observed that most of the new generation born of expelled Indians has no feeling of attachment towards Uganda. Many of those who benefited from new opportunities abroad lost interest in their parents’ affairs in Uganda or even deter them from returning31. This feeling often is shared by young people from families currently living in Uganda, but who are studying abroad.

  • 32 There are also Chinese newcomers in the region.
  • 33 Bikhu Patel, interview on 10th April 2006.
  • 34 Thirteen hold degrees in different fields like commerce, engineering, information science, medicine (...)

31Instead of former Indian residents, new immigrants, sometimes from other parts of India, are now trying their luck, taking advantage of arelative return to civil peace and the liberalized economic environment32. According to our informants, the majority of Indians currently in Uganda are “newcomers”. This observation is confirmed by our direct investigation33. Of the 22 people in our sample, only 2 (or their families) belong to the category of returnees while the remaining 20 (or their families) recently arrived in the country (91 %). Most of these 20 are qualified young professionals who are aged between 20 and 40 years34. Interviewed people are mixed: Indian citizens, British, Kenyans, Tanzanians and South Africans. Indian citizens mainly come from Gujarat though there are others from Maharashtra, Kerala or Hyderabad. Some have contacts with networks of Ugandan Indians who returned to India after deportation.

Resettlement of Indians

  • 35 The New Vision, 21st October 1993: 24.
  • 36 Migration News, March 1996. Another estimation establishes that the share of Indians in business is (...)
  • 37 For more information, see The New Vision, 15th August 2005: 31-35.

32Being a year of economic recovery, 1993 represented a milestone for the return of Indians in Uganda. However, this return was marked by some controversies (Asiimwe, 2007). Indians were stakeholders in all industrial and commercial sectors, including the most modern ones (ICT, electronics, pharmaceuticals, distribution and other services). Due to this, they largely contributed to the resumption of economic activities and growth that was witnessed during the last decade of the 20th Century. After redeeming plantations and processing plants, they regained control of tea production (more than 50 % from 1993)35. From 1996, Indians’ participation in the economy was 25 % of the total foreign investments ($ 500,000 out of $ 2 million)36. Since they employ a significant number of Africans, Ugandan Indian companies substantially contributed to the country’s tax revenues. For example, Karmali’s Mukwano, who are specialists in sugar production and employer of 10,000 people (8,000 of them in sugar cane plantations), paid 50 billion Uganda shillings to the Treasury in 2004. Among other major renowned Ugandan Indian companies include the following consortia: Manzul Alam, Karim Hirji’s Dembe, Sudhir Ruparellia’s Meera, Megha, Metha and Mukwano. Other Indians head companies of varying sizes in banking and insurance, tourism, imports and exports and, of course, the wholesale and retail37.

Figure 9.1: Inflation & GDP Growth, 1989-1999

Figure 9.1: Inflation & GDP Growth, 1989-1999

Perception of Indian newcomers and returnees about Uganda

  • 38 A statement by an Indian leader on 3rd May 2006. Most holders of foreign passports whom we intervie (...)

33Although some Indians who came back to resettle in Uganda are still traumatized by the experience of expulsion, most of them expressed their confidence in the future: “We cannot lament any longer about the past, Idi Amin and the suffering we endured”, said one returnee. “We cannot change the past but we can build the future.”38

34When Indians are asked about their feelings towards Africans, most respondents described Africans as being generally hospitable, friendly and courteous. In addition, Indians have a feeling of being at home in Uganda. They say that life in Uganda is full of amenities, comfortable and interesting. The country itself is described as peaceful, safe, and potentially rich. They particularly thanked the government for its “hospitality”.

  • 39 Summary of responses obtained during different interviews. Muyindi: local variant of the Swahili te (...)

35Secondly, however, Indians – or at least some of them – are having some cause of discontent, even if they are frequently relegated to the background. A primary cause of dissatisfaction is the difficulty in obtaining Ugandan citizenship, a situation that makes them have a sense of insecurity, particularly due to potential threats of expropriation39.

  • 40 Interview on 3rd May 2006.

36Another cause of resentment is the behavior of some Africans (especially the police or government officials) who are criticized for alleged harassment or discrimination. Many people report being occasionally subjected to insults from passersby or from boda boda riders (motorcycle taxis). “I was surprised when they once yelled insults at me,” says an Indian immigrant. “You, Muyindi, why are you here? Return to your country.” The same immigrant says that Tanzanians are, among all East Africans, the friendliest in East Africa, although Ugandans are the most generous40. Asked the same question, another woman confirms occasional occurrences of aggressive behavior from some Africans:

  • 41 Interview n° 13 KSB 5 (Appendix 2), 28th April 2006.

Some boda boda cyclists hurl insults at us as we pass-by. Can you imagine every day! They threaten that Amin or another form of Amin is about to sprout and evict us from Uganda. They say we congest all their social services including schools.41

  • 42 Interview n° 18 (Appendix 2), 27th April 2006.
  • 43 Interview n° 14 (Appendix 2), 28th April 2006.

37Boda boda riders and taxi drivers are known for their abuse and even insults. However, such comments may also reflect hidden and repressed feelings from the African population in general. Furthermore, these feelings may tend to increase with time. “On the face of it, people are very friendly towards us, but we must recognize that since recently, the situation has changed. Some think that Indians will rule Uganda in the future, which is not the case! ”42 According to someone else, Africans claim that “(...) our presence is the cause of unemployment, rising taxes, unequal investment opportunities… I do not agree with this point of view at all! I think it depends on individual efforts.” However, one of the interviewees acknowledged that “there are unequal opportunities for investment, particularly in sectors where Indians have monopoly of almost everything. The government should put a ceiling on the number of private investments so as to give an opportunity not only to Africans, but also to Indians with limited means.”43 The last interviewee said that resentment against Indians is not based on ethnic prejudice, but on class rather:

  • 44 Interview n° 4, KP (Appendix 2), 16th May 2006.

There is resentment (against the Indians) among the uneducated African masses. This is however not the case among the educated classes. Educated Africans are receptive, attentive and are willing to work with us and even share our points of view44.

  • 45 Interview n° 9, SK, (Appendix 2), 29th April 2006.
  • 46 Interview n° 3, Kololo, 3rd May 2006.
  • 47 Interview n° 7, Lugogo, 29th April 2006.

38Regarding the treatment of Indians by Ugandan government officials, two interviewees reported the existence of inequalities between citizens and immigrants. “We are punished for minor mistakes while Ugandan citizens were not, it’s not fair!”45 Violations of traffic laws are used by police as a pretext for “arresting and getting money out of us, while Africans are not bothered.”46 Others complain about tax administration. One Indian said that “when it comes to paying taxes, Africans are favoured! I know wealthy Africans who are exempted from tax...”47 Others cite corruption opportunities arising from excessively complicated procedures or harassment by police and immigration officials when it comes to getting work permits.

  • 48 Wahindi, plural of Muhindi in standard Swahili.
  • 49 Chai means “tea”, an euphemism that refers to petty bribes.
  • 50 Interview n° 11, GK (Appendix 2), 29th April 2006.

Sometimes the police can stop and ask for graduated tax tickets, may be to look for an opportunity of pinning you down. No work permit, no citizenship, every year they are promising and nothing is coming. Then the enforcing personnel take advantage of demanding some money from this Muyindi who they think ‘have their pockets full of dollars’48. All the time chai chai49, yet when Ugandans make the same mistakes they let them free. I am not saying that it is serious, not at all, really no problem, in fact it is not necessarily harassment, but when sometimes the traffic police or immigration stop and ask this and that which they do not ask citizens, it can be unfair yet everything else is so good. There is need for a clear policy on citizenship; for instance, I would like to be a citizen. I spend most of my earnings here, I pay rent, utilities, taxes, maintain my car here, thus hardly save to take money to India.50

  • 51 An interview with an Indian manager (A) on 3rd May 2006.

39Due to the weaknesses of the Ugandan administration, corruption is widespread. Foreigners easily fall victim to this corruption, especially from police, judiciary, revenue authorities, customs, and social affairs. It is easier for officers to ask more money from foreigners than the one required51.

Social and religious organisation among Ugandan Indians

40The Indian social organization is complex. It is known that the caste system once governed the whole of the Indian society, regardless of religious affiliation; being a member meant strict specialization in accordance with predetermined standards of division of labour. Today, such specialization is no longer a must in Uganda, even though members of former castes have often preserved their activities. In contrast, the statutory hierarchy has been widely maintained, especially in marital matters where the marriage rule is still based on caste endogamy and religious endogamy. This excludes intermarriage with Africans.

  • 52 According to Hinduism today, the number of Hindus was not over 2500 people in 1994 (Hinduism today, (...)
  • 53 The Swaminarayan have temples in Kampala, Jinja, Tororo, Mbarara and Gulu. With a small group of 15 (...)
  • 54 Other communities have less social and economic importance. The Shia Bohras are represented by Dawo (...)
  • 55 The Ahmadiyya (Jamaat) is a Muslim messianic belief that emerged in India in the late 19th century. (...)

41From the religious affiliation point of view, Ugandan Indians are divided into two main groups: Hindus (majority) and Muslims. Other small religious groups are also represented: Sikhs, Roman Catholics and Parsis. Although a small section of the original Hindu community resettled in the country, its number has risen in recent years, and according to our informants, it was about 7000 people in 200652. Two splinter groups, the Swaminrayan and Jains play a major economic and social role53 alongside orthodox Hindus. Meanwhile, Muslims are divided between Sunni (majority) and Shia, among them the Ismailia (about 500 people in 2006), who have a special status due to the role they play in the country’s economy54 as previously pointed out. As mentioned above, a small minority group, the Ahmadiyya, was recently reconstituted after marking its presence in Uganda in the last fifty years55.

Table 9.2 Other Indian community associations in Uganda

Associations
Andhra cultural association (Hindus)
Shri Akhil Uganda Brahma Samaj (Hindus)
Bengali association (regional association)
Bhatia Samaj (Hindus)
Kutchi Bhatia Samaj (Hindus)
Hare Krishna Temple (ISCKON)
Jain Samaj (Jains)
Kalashree (Hindus)
Kerala Samajam (regional Christian association)
Karnataka association (regional association)
Lohana Community (Hindus)
Maharashtra Mandal (regional association)
Pillav Group (Hindus)
Patidar Samaj (Hindus)
Patidar Shishu Kunj (Hindus)
Punjabi Cultural Society (regional association)
Shree Kutch Satsang Swaminarayan Temple (Reformist Hindus)
S. S.D.M, Sanatam Darhma Temple (Hindus)
Sindhi Association of Uganda (regional association)
Shree Swaminiriyan Mandal
Shree Akshar Puroshttam Swaminarayan Sanstha
Surat District (regional association)
Tamil Sangam (regional association)
World Malayalee Council, Africa (regional association)

Source: Author’s research; data collected in March-April 2006.

  • 56 Born in Mombasa and being a holder of a British passport, one of them said: “Yes, my family is from (...)

42Many members of the diaspora, with or without Indian citizenship, assemble in the Indian Association of Uganda, an umbrella religious and community associations that was founded in 1922. Every year, this association celebrates “Indian Day”. Although most Indians who were interviewed still have contacts with India through periodic visits, family visits or business relationships, all of them show no particular attachment to that country. This is particularly the case with those born in East Africa56.

Indian residential pattern in Uganda

  • 57 Several Indian families anxious to live in neighbouring apartments come together to offer compensat (...)

43Because of their cultural differences, and for safety reasons, Indian communities tend to cluster themselves in separate residential areas. This situation has virtually not changed since the beginning of the colonial era. Kampala city has the largest number of the diaspora representatives, about 7500 people (probably more than half the total number of residents in reference to the above mentioned figures). While the African middle and upper classes are generally reluctant to live in the city centre (because it is unfriendly to large families), Indians returned to their former favourite neighbourhoods of Kampala (Apollo Kaggwa and Buganda Road) or reoccupied buildings corresponding to their former commercial establishments in central Kampala (Bombo Road, Jinja Road, William Street and Martin Road). Another group of Indians that was economically more modest opted for suburbs served by major roads as this guaranteed security – which explains why such suburbs were sought by the middle classes. That is the case of Bukoto National Housing Flats where former African tenants were financially induced to vacate in order to make way for Indian occupants who were willing to come together in adjoining dwellings57. Other residential areas popular with Indians are Kamwokya (Kisementi), Nagulu and Lugogo Bye-pass. As for the richest Indians, they have usually chosen the up market residential areas like Kololo, Nakasero, Muyenga, Kabalagala and Ntinda.

44While former Indian residential areas (urban or rural) were occupied by Africans in the wake of expulsion, some of the former owners preferred asking for financial compensation rather than returning there. However, other owners (some of them now living in Europe or America), repossessed their properties either to let or sell them to other Indians.

Indians in social and political arenas

  • 58 The articles of association state that its purpose is in particular “to promote economic and social (...)
  • 59 The New Vision, 9 (19), 24th January 1994: 2.

45Just like in other East African countries, all observers agree that Indians in Uganda are aloof to national politics (Shah 2004). However, the Indian community – especially through the Indian Association of Uganda – never fails to intervene at the political level when it comes to defending its interests58. In addition, many Indians who resettled in Uganda locally participate in social activities and even in local politics, indicating that their perception of Africans has changed. During his visit to Uganda, the spiritual leader of the Swaminarayan movement encouraged followers to live and work with Africans59.

  • 60 Born in Buganda, Rajni Taylor is the former chairman of the Indian Association of Uganda. On his pa (...)
  • 61 This is the case of one of the county seats in Kampala (Kampala Central) won by Mr. Karia (Independ (...)

46Furthermore, some Indians regionally participate in traditional government bodies. These bodies have been held in place by the government of independent Uganda. Thus, in the reshuffle of his cabinet in 2004, the Kabaka (king of Buganda) has named two Indians to cabinet posts (Muhamood Thobani, Minister for Economic Planning and Investment and Rajni Taylor, Deputy Minister)60. Other elective offices in regional, corporate or even national bodies were recently assigned to Ugandan Indians61. During the 2006 parliamentary elections, another Ugandan of Indian origin, Tanna Sanjay, was elected Member of Parliament for Tororo Municipality. This set of facts shows a positive trend in social and political integration as well as progress made in the domain of friendly coexistence among communities.

  • 62 Interview n° 2, Kampala’s industrial area, 3rd May 2006.
  • 63 Interview n° 3, 3rd May 2006.
  • 64 The Independent, 26th August 2005.

47The socially closed nature of the Indian community is generally attributed to deep cultural difference between Indians and Africans. As underlined by one respondent, “Given that Indians and Africans have very different cultural norms, it is rather difficult for me to participate spontaneously in most African social activities, and the same is true for Africans. Moreover, it must be acknowledged that we Indians are free to behave as we wish.”62 While some Indian children from wealthy families are studying in good schools in the company of African children, most Indian parents tend to prefer sending their children to community schools such as the Ismailia schools. There are several community schools in Kampala, the most famous being the Aga Khan Academy (Ismailia), the Lohana Academy (Hindu), the Multitec Academy (Multireligious) and Ramgarhia Sikh School (Sikh). From a certain level, the children go to study in India or in a Western country. These practices stand in the way of Indians’ successful integration in the Ugandan society. To justify this fact, one of the interviewees argued that educational levels in India are higher and that the Indian government encourages admission of foreign children63. Another argument is that, in the absence of citizenship status – a situation that undermines their future – families are encouraged to maintain contacts with a foreign country64. Admittedly, Indians who live far from urban centres send their children to the same schools as Africans.

48One of the consecutive observations of our survey is that Indians with Ugandan citizenship (mainly returnees from 1972 and residents for several generations) are more relaxed, confident and friendly towards Africans than Indians who recently arrived in Uganda. The said recent immigrants show indifference, reservation and even apprehension. This difference is explained by the uncertainty of their residency status and perhaps by memories of bad experiences with police. In respect to their relations with Africans, old Indian Ugandans belonging to the category of returnees gladly give advice to Indian newcomers:

  • 65 Interview with a Swaminarayan manager, 10th April 2006.

We tell them to socialise, to make friends and attend Local Council meetings… we don’t want the gap… When an Asian goes to a particular town, there is anxiety among the local people as they fear that he is going to push them out of business. So we guide them to venture into something new so as not to block the opportunities of the locals. They can concentrate on wholesale and leave the distribution to the local people so that they can also earn from it65

  • 66 Mahmood Hudda, The Hindu, 12th April 2004.

49Old Indian Ugandans have also become more aware of the positive development of their relations with Africans, suggesting that they have somehow learnt a lesson from their expulsion. On this issue, Mahmood Hudda talks of the “unacceptable conditions” in which his family treated their African house help: “The way in which the older generation asked for a cup of tea is completely different from our children... These ones ask: ‘Could I have a cup of tea please’ – instead of asking the way my family used to do: ‘Bring me some tea.’ Today, older Indians frequently put the younger ones in trouble because they do not know any other way of asking.”66

  • 67 Different interviews: Metha, Jinja Road, 3rd May 2006; Abidi, Makerere University, 4th May 2006; Us (...)

50Although some Africans do not fail to criticize Indians for being opportunists, Indian returnees, through their many associations, are also involved in many activities and charities. This is usually in collaboration with Africans or for the latter’s benefit. Some African Indian individuals or organizations have established schools, hospitals and other social services. They often distribute food, make regular donations of medical equipment, provide assistance to widows and offer scholarships to need African students.67

Conclusion

51Having been present for centuries in Eastern Africa, Indians were used by the British as auxiliaries of the colonial system. They largely contributed to the success of the contemporary Ugandan economy while ensuring their economic and social growth. They are a powerful minority group whose identity is special. Due to this, their integration into the Ugandan society is far from being accomplished, despite the cruel experience of expulsion in 1972. This objective, which determines the future of their relations with the society at large, remains an important issue for Uganda in the next decade.

Bibliographie

Bibliography

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The New Vision, Kampala, 24th January 1994

The New Vision, Kampala, 20th June 2000

The New Vision, Kampala, 15th August 2005

The New Vision, Kampala, 5th December 2005

The Weekly Observer, Kampala, 2 (20) 4th -10th August 2005

Annexes

Appendix

Table 9.3 List of Uganda’s top 100 taxpayers in 2003-2004

Position Taxpayer Ownership Activity Value (USHS)
1 Shell Uganda
Ltd.
Multinational Oil 78, 746, 693,
437
2 MTN Uganda
Ltd
Multinational (South Africa) Telecommunications 75, 881, 639,
815
3 Uganda
Breweries LTD*
Multinational (Kenya) Brewing industry 60, 578, 174,
614
4 Total (U) Ltd. Multinational Oil 54, 117, 235,
548
5 Caltex Oil (U)
Ltd
Multinational Oil 46, 333, 840,
771
6 British
American
Tobacco (U)
Multinational Cigarettes 45, 216, 636,
207
7 Nile Breweries
Ltd
Indian (Madhivan) Brewing industry 38, 881, 356,
624
8 Century
Bottling Co.
Ltd.
Multinational (USA) Coca Cola 29, 865,
388,402
9 Kobil Uganda
Ltd
Multinational Oil 28, 732,
288,826
10 Gapco (U) Ltd Indian Oil 26, 769,
166,845
11 Petro Uganda
Ltd
Multinational Oil 24, 597,
946,757
12 Tororo Cement
Industries Ltd*
Indian Cement 21, 359,
785,638
13 Stanbic Bank Multinational (South
African)
Banking 20, 028,
449,310
14 Hima Cement
Ltd
Indian Cement 17, 734,
150,981
15 Standard
Chartered Bank (U)
Multinational (USA) Banking 16, 919,
705,968
16 Uganda
Electricity
Distribution
Multinational (South
African)
Electricity distribution 16, 855,
642,555
17 E.C.S. Naro Government - --------- 15, 672,
172,017
18 Kakira Sugar
Works*
Indian (Madhivan) Sugar 15, 091,
772,980
19 A.K. Oil & Fats
Ltd*
Indian (Mukwano) Food industry 14, 543,
262,861
20 KPMG Peat
Marwick
Multinational (Kenya) Auditors &
Consultants
13, 769,
919,132
21 Ministry of
Energy
Government - -------- 10, 412,
171,396
22 Barclays Bank (U) Multinational (GB) Banking 10,040, 974,
754
23 Petrocity
Enterprises (U)
Multinational Oil 9, 392, 901,
675
24 Hared
Petroleum Ltd.
Multinational Oil 9, 333, 117,
624
25 URA Government - -------- 9, 157, 595,
402
26 Kinyara Sugar
Works
Joint:
Government/
Britain
Sugar 8, 865, 325,
722
27 Sugar Corp. of
Uganda* Ltd (SCOUL)*
Indian (Metha) Sugar 8, 144, 979,
734
28 Mukwano
Industries (U)
Ltd
Indian Mechanics 7, 847, 963,
465
29 Blood
Transfusion
Service
Government - -------------- 7, 342, 960,
082
30 Unilever
Uganda
Limited
Multinational (GB) Equipment 7, 091, 687,
110
31 Faculty Arts,
A/C Victoria
Mtrs
Government - -------------- 6, 382, 493,
427
32 Nat. Water &
Sewage Corp.
Government - ------------- 6, 264, 433,
187
33 Companies in
Liquidation
Government
BOU
Banking 5, 789, 304,
567
34 Allied Healthy
Prof Council
Multinational Health/ pharmaceuticals 5, 617, 324,
426
35 Uganda Baati
Ltd*
Indian Steel manufacturers 5, 541, 578,
672
36 Uganda
Electricity
Transmission
Co. Ltd
Multinational (South Africa) Electricity transmission 5, 502, 681,
040
37 National Plan.
Auth. A/C The
New Vision
Government - ------------ 5, 342, 861,
313
38 Jovenna Multinational (South Africa) Oil 5, 334, 387,
457
39 Britania Allied
Industries*
Indian Bricks 5, 309, 688,
118
40 Leaf Tobacco &
Commodities
Multinational Cigarettes 5, 295, 934,
832
41 Centenary
Bank – Entebbe
Rd
Church/
German
Association
Banking 5, 124, 797,
045
42 Citi Bank -2 Multinational (USA) Banking 4, 920, 651,
931
43 Roko
Construction
Ltd
Multinational Construction 4, 840, 471,
371
44 Delta
Petroleum
Limited
Multinational Oil 4, 495, 316,
605
45 Chief
Mechanical
Eng. A/C K.L
Gen Suppliers
Multinational 4, 473, 108,
722
46 Bank of Baroda
Ltd *
Indian Banking 4, 325, 686,
911
47 ARTP II Local
A/C Aeatri A/C
City Tyres
Multinational Tyres 4, 270, 744,
185
48 Civil Aviation
Authority
Government - ------------ 4, 185, 621,
418
49 Stanbic Bank (U) Ltd Multinational (South Africa) Banking 4, 112, 398,
877
50 DHL Multinational International courier 4, 101, 024,
536
51 Kampala
Sheraton Hotel
Joint:
Government/
Multinational
Hotel 4, 011, 630,
579
52 Hashi Empex
Ltd
Multinational Oil 3, 908, 117,
573
53 Agro Value
Processors
Impex (U)
Multinational (Canada) Imports of second hand clothes 3, 859, 910,
743
54 Abdul Kadeer
Hakimuddi *
Indian 3, 844, 277,
266
55 Uganda
Telecom Ltd.
Multinational Telecomm 3, 698, 268,
611
56 Mgs
International (U)
Multinational (USA) Imports of machines 3, 652, 014,
248
57 E. African
Portland
Cement
Multinational (Kenya) Imports of cement 3, 553, 217,
663
58 Comp. of
Records
A/C Safali
Expedition
Indian (Mukwano) Hotel & Tourism 3, 467, 040,
483
59 DFCU Leasing
Company
Ltd IFC (US)
German; Great
Britain & Ug.
Dev. Corp.
Multinational Banking 3, 442, 201,
486
60 Panyahululu
Company Ltd.
Multinational (China) Pharmaceuticals 3, 376, 635,
059
61 Petro Link Multinational Oil 3, 295, 859,
900
62 Celtel (U) Ltd Multinational Telecomm 3, 281, 815,
405
63 Fuelex (U) Ltd Multinational Oil 3, 149, 749,
067
64 Bank of
Uganda (BOU)
Government 3, 008, 038,
648
65 Rd Agency
Formation
A/C Spencon
Services*
Indian Construction 2, 979, 197,
399
66 Crown
Beverages Ltd.
Joint (A. Nzei (local) / South
Africa)
Pepsi Cola 2, 972, 930,
863
67 Yusta Limited Multinational Oil 2, 962, 882,
644
68 Engen Uganda
Limited
Multinational (South Africa) Oil 2, 960, 624,
153
69 Dembe Trad.
Enterprises *
Indian (Karim) Diverse activities 2, 935, 019,
081
70 World Wide
Movers (U) Ltd
Multinational Clearing and transport services 2, 884, 338,
194
71 Motorcare U
Ltd
Multinational (Great Britain) Vehicle imports (Nissan) 2, 813, 531,
031
72 Eskom A/C
Mare Johann
Paul
Multinational (South Africa) Energy production 2, 768, 922,
696
73 White
Showmans Ltd*
Multinational (Great Britain/
Uganda)
2, 634, 611,
322
74 DFCU Bank
Ltd
Indian Banking 2, 627, 986,
598
75 Kimuli Henry Loc. Uganda 2, 538, 090,
564
76 Mansons
Uganda Ltd*
Joint Kenya/
Uganda
Aluminium & metals 2, 496, 303,
653
77 Translink (U)
Ltd
Indian 2, 448, 202,
045
78 Nile Bank Ltd Loc. Uganda Banking 2, 435, 556,
805
79 Shoprite
Checkers (U)
Ltd.
Multinational (South Africa) Supermarkets 2, 389, 769,
853
80 A.K. Plastics (Mukwano)* Indian Plastics 2, 315, 916,
461
81 Startex Co. Ltd Multinational (Pakistan) Pharmaceuticals 2, 304, 705,
312
82 NSSF Government - ------ 2, 235, 838,
763
83 Muljibhai
Madvani Co.*
Indian Diverse activities 2, 151, 657,
420
84 Multichoice
Uganda Ltd
Multinational Cables & television 2, 069, 868,
002
85 Bulamu
Bwebugagga
Loc Uganda Different products 2, 029, 037,
948
86 Yuan Shi
Investments (U)*
Indian Vehicle imports 2, 009, 891,
029
87 Picfare
Industries Ltd.*
Indian (Madvani) Paper manufacturers
2, 006, 293, 028
88 Transpaper Ltd. Multinational (Kenya) General supplier 1, 969, 617,
132
89 Chatha Invest.
U Ltd*
Indian Vehicle imports 1, 961, 647,
745
90 Sadolin Paints
Ltd.
Multinational (GB) Paint manufacturers 1, 933, 940,
533
91 Crane Bank
Ltd.
Indian (Sudhir) Banking 1, 917, 681,
652
92 Bata Shoe Co.
Ltd.*
Indian Shoe manufacturers 1, 915, 171,
745
93 Masumin
Textiles Corp.
Ltd.*
Indian Textile manufacturers 1, 901, 785,
246
94 E. African
Glass Works*
Indian (Metha) Glass manufacturers 1, 901, 005,
480
95 Capacity
Building
Government - ------------------ 1, 898, 040,
246
96 Housing
Finance Co.
Government.
(NHCC &
NSSF)
Credit 1, 864, 732,
130
97 Vision Impex
Ltd.
Multinational 1, 858, 356,
179
98 Shell Malindi (U) Ltd. Multinational Oil 1, 856, 436,
712
99 Euroflex Ltd. Multinational (GB) 1, 856, 174,
121
100 Toro Mityana
Tea Co. Ltd
Multinational (Mitch. Cotts) (GB) Tea planting 1, 840, 136,
704

Sources: URA (Uganda Revenue Authority) and the author’s research

Notes

1 The author would like to sincerely thank all his Ugandan Asian contact persons for trusting him and taking time to answer his questions. He is also grateful to his assistant, Sarah Nakamya as well as the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA) for funding this research.

2 This research is based on documentary data, especially data dating from the earliest period as well as on the research carried out by the author on the main representatives of the Indian diaspora in Kampala between March and June 2006. The author was able to do about fifteen detailed interviews with about fifteen heads of organizations (See appendix 1). In addition, thanks to random sampling, 22 people of Indian origin were interviewed (19 men and 3 women). The small number of women represented in the sample is explained by the fact that it is difficult to make the women accept to be interviewed. A questionnaire that had both closed and open questions was administered to the 22 respondents (see appendix 2).

3 In order to put an end to some controversies, it goes without saying that Indians must not be considered to have deliberately taken part in the colonial project in Africa. They were rather dependent on the British colonial system, and they were thus used by the latter to consolidate their settlement.

4 Other indentured labourers were recruited on contract terms at the same time in British Guyana (239,000), in Trinidad (150,000), in Jamaica (38,600), in British West Indies (11,200), in the French West Indies (979,000), in Surinam (34,500), in Mauritius Islands (455,000), in Reunion (75,000). Read Northrup (1995: 53).

5 Commissioner Sandler’s statement, General report on the Ugandan protectorate, Africa, XII, 1904, Cd 2250: 6-7.

6 Allidina Visram died in 1916.

7 Sunday Magazine, 12 December 2004.

8 Statement by Kripal Sigh on 19th May 2006, Appollo Kagwa road.

9 It is important to mention Vithaldas Haridas, Jamal Walji and Haji Adam among other eminent Ugandan Asian names.

10 Demanding equal representation like Europeans, Indians refused the seat up to 26th May 1926 when this was finally accepted by Mr. Amin Chrunabai Jekabhai. All the same, Indians did not abandon their demands. In 1933, they got a second representative (Wild Report, in Ibingira 1973: 110).

11 Survey done in 2006.

12 About stereotypes, read Ocaya-Lakidi (1975: 95).

13 After the Second World War, Britain needed manpower to restart its economy. Thus, the British Nationality Act of 1948 encouraged Commonwealth citizens to migrate to the metropolis. After the availability of labour was deemed sufficient, the successive governments enacted laws on immigration in 1962 and 1968, introducing the criteria of “birth and descent” to acquire citizenship. Compounding restrictive measures of 1962, the 1968 Act allows for instant, entry in Great Britain only if that person has a parent or grandparent who was born or naturalized in Great Britain. These laws seek to regulate immigration of “non-British by blood”, such as Asians and Africans in the former colonies and protectorates (See Brown 1995, Hope 1997).

14 This is to thank the British for the welcome; this was during the meeting with President Yoweri Museveni, 25 years after expulsion. See AsiansfromUganda.org

15 Interviews of April 2006. Babhubhai Ruparel and Sharda Nandlal Karia were determined not to abandon their ancestral house (Bhardwaj, 1994). Among the people we interviewed, two Ugandan Asians, Patel Ramji and Kripal Bansal are among the people who remained in Uganda during Amin Dada’s dictatorship.

16 Hinduism Today, December 1994.

17 Abidi, interview on 4th May 2006.

18 Also Hinduism Today, December 1994.

19 Among the 22 people interviewed, 10 came back between 1986 and 1995 and 8 from 1995 to 2006. In spite of protests from those who had benefited from the Indians’ property during the preceding period, most Indians were able to repossess their property (survey done from March to May 2006).

20 Interview with Bhikhbhai Patel on 10th April 2006.

21 Uganda Population and Housing Census 2002, Kampala (2005: 51), Table B9.

22 Lacey, Goanet News, 2003.

23 According to our own informers, the total number of Indians in Uganda today could be between 13,000 and 15,000 people, with about 7,500 of them living in Kampala (interviews with Bhikhubhai Patel, 10th April 2006; Usha Jog, 3rd May 2006; Kalpesh Patel, 16th May 2006). Naren Metha, the chairman of the Indian association in Uganda thinks that the current number of Asians in Uganda is between 12,000 and 14,000. This is just an approximate figure given that the members of the diaspora are “scattered in the country and that in the past, there was no proper analysis of migration phenomena” (Naren Metha, Jinja road, 3rd May 2006). In this book, Laurent Nowik proposes a higher figure than 10,000 in 2001, which does not contradict our own estimations.

24 Thus, according to our informants, the 700 Hindu Patels or the 500 Ismaili Muslims only account for 25 Ugandan citizens in their ranks.

25 Interview on 16th May 2006, Kira road.

26 The Weekly Observer, 2, 4th-10th August 2005: 32-33.

27 Sunday Vision, 12th December 2004.

28 The Weekly Observer, 2,4th-10th August 2005: 32-33.

29 Gabiraani, The New Vision, 28th October 1993: 15. Other properties are still in the hands of Kampala City Council although they were officially returned to their owners.

30 See Sherali Bandali Jaffer on this issue, The Weekly Observer, 4th -10th August 2005: 32.

31 Interview with an Indian leader on 10th April 2006.

32 There are also Chinese newcomers in the region.

33 Bikhu Patel, interview on 10th April 2006.

34 Thirteen hold degrees in different fields like commerce, engineering, information science, medicine and arts, and two among them are holders of degrees equivalent to Masters.

35 The New Vision, 21st October 1993: 24.

36 Migration News, March 1996. Another estimation establishes that the share of Indians in business is 625 million dollars, which is a third of the total foreign investments (See Abidi 1996: 57).

37 For more information, see The New Vision, 15th August 2005: 31-35.

38 A statement by an Indian leader on 3rd May 2006. Most holders of foreign passports whom we interviewed expressed the wish to become Ugandan citizens (14 out of 22).

39 Summary of responses obtained during different interviews. Muyindi: local variant of the Swahili term muhindi: “Indian”.

40 Interview on 3rd May 2006.

41 Interview n° 13 KSB 5 (Appendix 2), 28th April 2006.

42 Interview n° 18 (Appendix 2), 27th April 2006.

43 Interview n° 14 (Appendix 2), 28th April 2006.

44 Interview n° 4, KP (Appendix 2), 16th May 2006.

45 Interview n° 9, SK, (Appendix 2), 29th April 2006.

46 Interview n° 3, Kololo, 3rd May 2006.

47 Interview n° 7, Lugogo, 29th April 2006.

48 Wahindi, plural of Muhindi in standard Swahili.

49 Chai means “tea”, an euphemism that refers to petty bribes.

50 Interview n° 11, GK (Appendix 2), 29th April 2006.

51 An interview with an Indian manager (A) on 3rd May 2006.

52 According to Hinduism today, the number of Hindus was not over 2500 people in 1994 (Hinduism today, December 1994 and an interview with Bhikhubhai Patel, 10th April 2006). Their number has since grown highly. 12 out of 22 people in our sample (55 %) belong to the Hindu community.

53 The Swaminarayan have temples in Kampala, Jinja, Tororo, Mbarara and Gulu. With a small group of 155 people, the Jains have two temples in Kampala (interview with Ketan Shah, 26th May 2006).

54 Other communities have less social and economic importance. The Shia Bohras are represented by Dawod Bohora Jamaat while Ithnasheri Shia are represented by Khoja Shia Ithnasheri Jamat. Sikhs are mostly in the Ramgarhia Sikh Society. Let’s note anecdotally that Sikhs riding a motorcycle always complain about the obligation of wearing a helmet because they are forced to remove their traditional turbans. Originally from Goa, Catholics formed an association called the Indian Catholic Community.

55 The Ahmadiyya (Jamaat) is a Muslim messianic belief that emerged in India in the late 19th century. It now has about ten million followers scattered around the world (Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.) and a few thousand followers in East Africa (Adamson 1989, Hammann 1994). After its expulsion in 1972, the Ahmadiyya community was resettled in Uganda, led by a group of around ten imams from Pakistan. Currently, the Ahmadiyya have places of worship in Wandegeya (Kampala), and Mukono, Mbiko, Jinja, Kamuli, Kayunga, Masaka, Iganga and Mbarara. The community also has a secondary school in Wandegeya and a hospital in Mbale. It plans to establish more schools and health centers in the country (interview with Mr Nafi, secretary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission on 27th March 2006).

56 Born in Mombasa and being a holder of a British passport, one of them said: “Yes, my family is from India. But I live in Uganda and none of our family members live in India anymore, the family is scattered between Great Britain and East Africa. I’m more at home here in Uganda than in India.” Statement by Mr. Shah, Bombo Road, 26th May 2006.

57 Several Indian families anxious to live in neighbouring apartments come together to offer compensation to African occupants, encouraging them to relocate or exchange their homes.

58 The articles of association state that its purpose is in particular “to promote economic and social cultural relations among all people of Indian origin and secondly, between themselves and the people of Uganda”.

59 The New Vision, 9 (19), 24th January 1994: 2.

60 Born in Buganda, Rajni Taylor is the former chairman of the Indian Association of Uganda. On his part, Mr. Manu Kanaani was named in the royal parliament (Lukiiko); The Monitor, 26th January 2004.

61 This is the case of one of the county seats in Kampala (Kampala Central) won by Mr. Karia (Independent 26th August 2005). In addition, Mr Abid Alam was elected chairman of the Uganda Manufacturers Association. A few years ago, Jay Tanna, a Nile Breweries distributer, aged 24, won a parliamentary seat representing youth during the election that pitted him against an African representative. He was forced to resign after the validity of his identity papers had been challenged. Jay Tanna was later killed in India in a car accident (The New Vision, 16th June 2001).

62 Interview n° 2, Kampala’s industrial area, 3rd May 2006.

63 Interview n° 3, 3rd May 2006.

64 The Independent, 26th August 2005.

65 Interview with a Swaminarayan manager, 10th April 2006.

66 Mahmood Hudda, The Hindu, 12th April 2004.

67 Different interviews: Metha, Jinja Road, 3rd May 2006; Abidi, Makerere University, 4th May 2006; Usha Jog, Kololo, 3rd May 2006. About fifteen years ago, a fundraising during the campaign “Help to fight against AIDS” was launched during a visit by young Indians in Uganda and this provided an opportunity for Indians and Africans to work together towards a common cause (The New Vision, 8 (113), 15th May 1993). Charity organizations include the Muljibhai Madhvani’s Scholarship Foundation Scheme that helps students from poor families gain access to university. In 2005, the foundation offered 93 university scholarships. In 2006, 400 million shillings was earmarked for the university scholarship program (The New Vision, 5th December 2005, The Daily Monitor, 21st June 2006: 7). More recently, the Indian Association Kerala Samajam Uganda (KSU) donated 40 million shillings for the people of Northern Uganda affected by civil war (The Daily Monitor, 24th October 2005). Belonging to the Shia Ithnasheri community (Khoja Shia Ithnasheri Jamat), the Jaffery Centre in Rubaga distributes food and clothing. Its manager, who is Kenyan-born, says that he really appreciates associating with Ugandans (interview on 20th May 2006). Other associations such as the Kalashree association organize lotteries for orphaned children.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 9.1 Indians ’arrival at and departure from Ugandan border points, 2000-2004
Crédits Source: Migration and Tourist Report (1V), 2000-2004, Uganda Bureau of Statistics, August 2005, 27: 39-47.
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/992/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 49k
Titre Figure 9.1: Inflation & GDP Growth, 1989-1999
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/992/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 14k

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Senior Lecturer at Makerere University in Kampala (Uganda)

© Africae, 2015

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