Idi Amin’s Expulsion of Asians

On 4th August 1972, the President of Uganda, Idi Amin, announced that Asians in Uganda had ninety days to leave the country. Amin stated that God had ordered him to do this in a dream. The expulsion order forced 50,000 Asians to leave Uganda; 20,000 of those were Ugandan passport holders. The rest were British passport holders.

The British brought into Uganda in 1920, to construct a railway between Kenya and Uganda. After its completion, many of the Asian population stayed. Unable to own land, they became traders, creating a middle class. They came to dominate trade, acting as a go between the Ugandans and Europeans.

Idi Amin came to power after a coup in January 1971.  Idi Amin accused the Asian population of ‘milking’ the Ugandan economy of its wealth, while not giving anything back. Their success, combined with the fact they never really integrated into Ugandan culture, meant that the local Ugandans resented them. Idi Amin’s expulsion, therefore was not unpopular in Uganda. However, the aftermaths of the expulsion were. Amin forced the Asian population to leave with little more than what they could carry, their homes and shops were looted.  Amin then gave the Asian businesses over to Ugandans, who, it transpired, had too little or no knowledge of how to run a business. Once thriving businesses were destroyed. Uganda found herself struggling to provide once plentiful commodities. The economy, in short, suffered heavily from the expulsion of skilled traders.

Yoweri Museveni, the current president, invited the expelled Asians to return after he took power in 1986.

Learn more about the Asian expulsion, and its impact on the Ugandan economy, on our Return to the Nile: Historical Jinja tour:

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