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Articles:

THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE ASIAN QUESTION IN UGANDA'S RELATIONS WITH BRITAIN, 1895-1972

A. KABWERU MUKWAYA

A. KABWERU MUKWAYA is a Lecturer of International Relations in the Department of Political Science, Makerere University, Kampala. M.P.S.R Vol. 1 No. 1, 1997, PP 110-134

  1. Introduction

  2. The Asians on the Uganda Scene

  3. Relationships between the Asians and the indigenous population

  4. Asians in the Constitutional Development of Uganda

  5. Post Independence Development in Uganda

  6. Idi Amin and the Asian Question

  7. Conclusion

  8.  ENDNOTES


1. Introduction

The Asian question is one of the main features of Aglo-Ugandan relations which has persisted from the colonial and post-colonial periods to the present day. Likewise, since Uganda's independence in 1962, the Asian question has manifested itself in various forms in the relations between Uganda and Britain. This article is about those relations. In order to fully understand the origin of this question, we examine the background of the Asian question in the context of the colonial era. That aspect of the Question includes the development of the Asian community in Uganda; the impact of the Asian community in the economic political, educational and social spheres in Uganda. Against this background we then proceed to consider the Asian Question in the light of Ugandan citizenship during and after the Uganda independence constitutional conferences; subsequent Ugandan legislation on citizenship and nationality; the post independence political and economic situation and the 1972
mass expulsion of the Asian community from Uganda. Some examination is also made of the development of British legislation on citizenship, nationality and immigration. We examine the short and long-term impact of the question on the social, economic and diplomatic relations of the two countries especially after
the 1972 expulsion. The Asian question is also viewed in the Commonwealth and international spheres.

 

2. The Asians on the Uganda Scene
The consequences of the construction of the Ugandan Railways in Uganda have continued to influence relations between Britain and Uganda. The Ugandan Railway was constructed between 1895 and 1902 to connect the Ugandan Protectorate to the Indian Ocean. The British Government decided to build the railway using materials and labour from India. Arge number of artisans and labourers were recruited throughout the period of the construction of the railway. After the completion of the Mombasa-Kisumu line (Uganda Railway), thousands of the Indian workers remained behind. The number of those who remained totalled around 32,000 in 1905. Some of these settled in Uganda, and established themselves as semi-skilled workers and traders. Mittelman asserts that:

Asian traders fist appeared on the coast of East African well before the British arrived there. The Asian presence was not felt in the interior (of East Africa) until the British began recruiting indentured laboured to construct the railway between Mombasa and Kampala (sic)..1

The number of Asians in Uganda increased as more Asians were recruited as a colonial policy of recruitment and immigration. Indian troops were brought into Uganda to assist the British colonial expansion and the quelling of local resistance in Uganda. As far back as Lugard's expeditions in Bunyoro, and later the British expansion in the Eastern and Northern regions of Uganda, Asian (as well as Sudanese) troops were involved in military activities in Uganda. For instance, 30 Sikhs were recruited in India to form a military transport service for the British administration in Uganda in 1897. Also in the same year, 150 men of the East African Indian forces from the British based at Mombasa were taken to Uganda to contain the mutiny by Sudanese troops.2

The colonial administration also recruited skilled and semi-skilled Asian artisans to assist in the running of the administrative and social services. The administration imported Asian masons, carpenters,clerks and mechanics.3 Furthermore, the British Commissioner, Frederick Jackson (1902) organized a campaign to bring into Uganda the Asians as labourers on the sugar cane plantations. The colonial immigration policy was very relaxed, so much so that several Asians came to Uganda without government permission. It was not until 1948 that immigration restrictions were imposed on new Asian entry into Uganda.4

It was British policy in Uganda to discourage white settlement and acquisition of land by non-Africans. As early as the 1920's the policy of maintaining a paramountancy of African rights in land was consistently pursued. This policy was reiterated in Governor John Hall's statement of July 1950. that:

... the policy of His Majesty's Government and the Protectorate Government which has been followed in the past and will be followed in the future...(is)... these rural lands are being held in trust for the use and benefit of the African population...(and), it is not the intention of His Majesty's Government and the Protectorate Government that the Protectorate of Uganda shall be developed as a country of non-African farming and settlement.5

This policy was aimed at preserving small scale farming in Uganda as opposed to large scale settler farming in Kenya. By the time of independence, only a few rich Asians had acquired land. Such acquisition of land by those Asians were in exceptional cases: for instance:

a) for agricultural or industrial or other undertakings which will, in the judgement of the Governor-in-Council, promote the economic and social welfare of the inhabitants of the territory; and
b) for residential purposes when only a small area is involved.6

Among the rich Asians who acquired land were the Mehta and Madhvani families. They established large-scale sugar, tea, coffee and industrial estates which provided employment for the local population.

The majority of Asians in Uganda established themselves as semi-skilled workers, business people and traders. They lived and worked in trading and administrative centres all over the country. With financial assistance from banks in Uganda and India, as well as acting as middlemen in commercial transactions, they became involved in the buying and selling of agricultural produce from African peasants. As traders in business they:

laid the foundation for most of Uganda's commerce and industry, and particularly the cotton industry which was the mainstay of the Ugandan economy from the early days of the 20th century (until the coffee industry overtook it in the latter part of the 1960's.7

By 1962 the Asians had become the most dominant in the ginning, processing and marketing of African peasant produce. They had replaced the colonial government in those areas. They were also dominant in the wholesale and retail trade. For instance, the Asians controlled about 90% of the retail trade in the whole country by 1962.

 

3. Relationships between the Asians and the indigenous population
African animosity towards the Asian community in Uganda, explicitly and implicitly, was the result of several factors. The major aspect was the role of the Asians in the economic life of Uganda. The Africans were of the view that the Asians exploited them in mployment, both as employers and fellow employees;
as middlemen in commerce and in financial transactions. This situation was fertile ground for growing suspicion, fear and hatred. For instance it was a common allegation among Africans that:

"Asians in industries are more apt to keep to their caste... whether there are qualified fitters, mechanics or electrical engineers and others of Ugandan origin; Asian employers would employ Ugandans (blacks) atShs. 400 per month while an illiterate artisan or mechanic would draw Shs. 2,000 or more per month.8

Indigenous Ugandans felt that while the rich Asians, like Mehta and Madhvani provided unskilled employment prospects, salaries, allowances, housing were racially discriminatory. Also the Asian petty traders in the urban areas were victims of African anger. This anger was generated by several factors. For instance, the Asians lived exclusively in trading centres, where all major social services were established. Africans were unable to break through into
the urban life. This is because the prices of property and facilities in the urban centres were very high. Therefore, the Asian community was an isolated privileged people surrounded by poor African peasants. Also the Asian trading community was accused of malpractice in trade transactions. Such accusations
included overcharging, hoarding, smuggling, underemployment, as well as being arrogant to wards the African consumers and producers of agricultural produce.

Another area of grievance was the educational system during the colonial period. African education was spearheaded by the Christian missionaries. When the colonial government started its educational policies, the Asians were already in a better position than the Africans. It was, therefore, government policy to educate the indigenous Africans in order to reduce the Asian influence in the
civil service. The policy did not achieve much largely because the Asians had their separate schools and recreational centres. They also sent their children to Kenya and India for further studies. Having separate schools, they received the type of education which stressed their origins and exposed them to opportunities in administration, technical, professional and other fields.
Their position in the urban areas gave them greater access to government and private sponsorship in schools and higher institutions of academic and technical instruction. Mittelman, in his examination of the three-tier system in education and administration in Uganda, asserted that:

This pattern of racial stratification was the product of British paternalism. Wittingly or unwittingly, the British, a people accustomed to rigid social distinctions themselves, established racial ordering in the colonies. Asian and African children attended their own schools, and the school system were separate but not equal. The 1959 figures for example indicate that expenditure in schools was at the rate of Pounds 186 per European, Pounds 38 per Asian, and Pound 11 per African in aided schools.9

Under such a system, the Asians were guaranteed access to better educational and
training facilities that Africans, and therefore became employed in
administration, private enterprise and in commerce as accountants, secretaries and clerks. However, as time went by, competition for commercial and civil services between Africans and Asians became inevitable as more Africans received education. Also the African pressure was aimed at gaining equality in education, fair chances in employment, and equality in the civil service.10 To achieve these objectives, more money was invested in paying for their children's education. By a joint effort of the government and missionaries, Africans were eventually able to occupy top positions in administration. Since the Asians had occupied the middle position in the civil service, while the Africans were in the lowest jobs, office relations were sometimes tense and uneasy. After independence, the struggle was in the middle positions in the civil service. Most of the African training and education was geared at replacing the Asians and other foreign skilled workers.

Another area of grievance was in the salaries and wages paid in the colonial administrative and social services, Africans in identical job with Asians, obtained pay that was racially determined, Under the British, Asians and Africans doing identical jobs were paid at different rates. The correspondence between race and income carried over well into the post-colonial period... Asians earned more than Africans by multiples of 8.7 in private industry and 715 in the public services.11

Both the public and private sectors of the economy continued to be areas of African grievance. The British government through its policy of "Divide and Rule" engineered and encouraged such grievances. British policy on this question was to create a European upper class, Asian middle-class and African lower classes.

In an attempt to ease tension arising from such a situation, restrictions were introduced on non-African immigration. In 1944 the British government introduced restrictions to the number of Asians coming into Uganda. The policy was welcomed in Uganda, however it was very unpopular in India. Ultimately however, the policy was unsuccessful. Asian immigrants continued to flow into the country in increasing numbers. This is because there were vacancies which
needed to be filled. The restrictions were relaxed because of the Asian practice of arranged marriages. As the city of Kampala grew as a result of the influx by the Asian immigrants, the pressure on the city service increased. Animosity towards the Asians became more apparent. The number of Asians in Uganda had increased from 35,215 in 1949 to 71,933 in 1959. 12 The following Table shows the trend of the Asian community in Uganda.

Table 1: Trends of the Asian Community in Uganda 1911-1972

Year

Population

1911

2,216

1921

5,000

1926

5,000

1931

14,150

1948

35,767

1959

71,933

1963

82,400

1972

80,000 (approx.)

Source: Statistical Abstracts, Uganda, 1959, 1969, 1972.

The result of these accumulated grievances were the disturbances and boycotts of the 1940's and 1950's. The main cause of the 1949 riots was the refusal of the government to allow Africans to gin thier own cotton. The issue began in 1948, when the Uganda African produce Growers Union petitioned the secretary of state for the African cotton growers rather than the cotton buyers.

Sir Andrew Cohen's reforms had several dimensions resulting from internal pressures generated by nationalist movements, from the British administrative and changing international relations towards colonial territories and people. However, the reforms were half-hearted with a lot of repercussions. Several authors have dealt with these issues from various angles and are mentioned in the footnotes.13

In simple terms, the African Growers' Union wanted to completely eliminate the role of Asians as middlemen. The African peasants grew the cotton, therefore they should be allowed to sell it by themselves or the government should be directly involved, not the Asians. The overnment promised to deal with their requests. As positive results from the Government were not forthcoming, riots broke out in 1949. Asian shops were boycotted and several Asians were victimised.

The Report on the riots made several recommendations on the prices and ginning of cotton. As the summary of the recommendations indicate, the conclusions were extremely ambiguous: The report, for instance, stipulates:

That in future when a price is fixed for produce it should be on a rather more liberal and a little less conservative basis.... that buying, ginning and marketing of cotton has hitherto been carried out by European andIndian capital and enterprise; the African has not contributed capital or shown the enterprise necessary to establish a ginnery... As the industry has grown up there has been nothing by way of legislation or other Government action to prevent the African from entering this side of the industry in open competition with the European and Indian....14

Such recommendations of the one-man Commission (Sir Joseph Sheridan) could only intensify the battle of the Africans through African Unions or organisations in order to achieve their goals. These recommendations did not even deal with the request by African concerning financial assistance to African peasants, pricing,
ginning and marketing. The 1949 riots were also important as they produced some of the major political actors in nationalist politics of the period. For instance, Ignatius Musazi who was one of the organizers of the riots of 1949, became the founder of the first national political party in Uganda, the Uganda National Congress (UNC).

 

4. Asians in the Constitutional Development of Uganda
We now turn to the Asian question in relation to the constitutional and legal aspects in the development of Anglo-Ugandan relations. The question of Ugandan citizenship in the UNC programme ran counter to the British Government conception of citizenship in the context of the British Empire. The British policy on citizenship was made clear in a statement by Lord Salisbury when he said that:

"Imperial Overseas Settlement and the interchange of populations between one part of the British Commonwealth and others is essential to the future happiness and prosperity and even survival of the British Empire."15

Lord Salisbury was concerned with the free-flow of the peoples within the British Empire and the White Commonwealth. This was in 1943. As we have already noted, in the case of Uganda, the Colonial Government introduced restrictions on Indian immigration in 1944. Between 1947-8 and 1948 India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) gained independence. With the admission
of India into the Commonwealth, the association passed from the White Commonwealth into a multi-racial Commonwealth. India (and Pakistan) became independent and also enacted their own nationality laws. In response to those changes in the British Commonwealth, the 1948 British Nationality Act was enacted. By this time the concept of a common nationality for the Empire was a dead letter.

The 1948 Act divided the British subjects/Commonwealth citizens into two categories: The first category included citizens of the UK and colonies who continued to have a common nationality. Regardless of race they were UK nationals under international Law. The second category was citizens of independent commonwealth countries. These were not nationals of the United Kingdom but continued to enjoy voting and certain other rights in the UK.16
During the colonial protectorate Ugandans were British nationals belonging to the first category. It should be noted that the Indian Government Representative in East Africa after India's independence in 1947, encouraged the Ugandan Asians to "integrate" instead of acquiring the new Indian citizenship. Also first Indian Prime Minister J. Nehru's message was that Indians who had settled in British colonial territories must identify themselves with those countries17. The 1948 Act only gave legal status to persons born in her
colonies to be British nationals. It did not spell out the rights of entry and residence in the "mother" country.

In the same year (1948) the Colonial Ordinance was passed in Uganda to further restrict immigration there. The Ordinance prevented entry of non-Africans, except when the authorities were satisfied that such entry could be of contribution to the native interests. However, due to the level of economic and social development of Uganda the law was circumvented. It allowed people with special skills to come, live and work in Uganda. Also there was another social side to the law. The Asian marriage arrangements allowed Asians to join their spouses in Uganda.

As more and more colonies became independent, there was pressure in Britain to re-adjust the laws of nationality and immigration. In 1962 the British Parliament enacted the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. Explaining this position in his 1962 speech to the House of Commons the attorney-General Sir Peter Rawlinson asserted that:

"By nineteen sixty-two it has become clear that immigration to this country was increasing to an extent that made it difficult for us to assimilate the immigrants. And by the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 provision was made whereby the right of Commonwealth citizens (i.e. both citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies and of the independent Commonwealth countries) to enter the
United Kingdom was restricted and regulated."18

The 1962 Act distinguished between nationality and immigration. The free entry was limited and reserved for persons born in the United Kingdom or persons who are British passport holders.

Two constitutional conferences were held in London in 1961 and 1962 in preparation for Uganda's independence. The question of citizenship, which was on the UNC programme as far back as 1952, formed part of the conference package. The Uganda constitutional conferences were based on the recommendations of the Report of the Uganda Relationships Commission, 1961, which was also known as the Munster Commission after its chairman, Lord Munster. In its recommendations on the issue of citizenship, the commission stipulated that:

"As an independent country Uganda will need a citizenship law. We consider that the precise content of this lies beyond our terms of reference. But certain principles should be accepted at this stage, in order to prevent the question of citizenship becoming entangled with other more immediate constitutional questions."19

The Report realised that this issue was a tricky one and should be dealt with not solely as constitutional, but also in its international and political aspects. It emphasized that the question of citizenship should take into account fundamental human rights. Ugandan citizenship should not be related to the right to own land which was a sensitive issue. In summary, the Report recommended that:

"A citizenship law will be necessary in the future and should be approached on a non-racial, footing,land law and franchise should be regarded as quite separate questions."20

This recommendation on citizenship in Uganda re-affirmed the social and economic importance of land in Uganda emphasizing the 1900 Agreement provision on land tenure.

As the questions of citizenship and immigration were being handled at the constitutional conferences and through British legislation, the Asian Community was to bear the burden at the time. In his conclusions at the Uganda constitutional conference, on the citizenship debate, Reginald Maulding stated that:

"The Constitution will create a citizenship of Uganda. It will contain provisions dealing with the following aspect of this subject:- persons automatically acquiring Uganda citizenship on Independence; entitlement to citizenship of Uganda by registration; acquisition of Uganda citizenship by birth after independence; acquisition of Uganda citizenship by married women; dual citizenship."21

This was the basis of Clause 2 on Citizenship in the 1962 Constitution of Uganda (Chapter 11 of the Constitution of Uganda (First Amendment) Act. 1963). According to the letters of the constitution on citizenship:

"Every person who, having been born in Uganda, is on 8th October 1962 a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies or a British protected person shall become a citizen of Uganda on 9th October 1962: Provided that a person shall not become a citizen of Uganda by virtue of this subsection if neither of his parents was born in Uganda.22

The persons affected by the provision to Section (1) of the Constitution could apply to the Uganda government for registration as Uganda citizens, and then renounce any other citizenship. The Uganda constitution specified two years of Grace to those Asians and Europeans who intended to take up Ugandan citizenship. The Clause on Ugandan citizenship in the 1962 constitution indicates a compromise solution achieved at the constitutional conferences. Before independence, all "Uganda" were British subjects; at independence they were to become Uganda citizens. However, the future of the Asian community in Uganda was examined in a setting of suspicion and allegations between the Asian community and the African indigenous peoples. We have already examined several areas of friction. Political independence could not automatically erase such a situation.

Basing on her historical and international role towards the Asian community in Uganda, Britain gave an opportunity to those Asians who wanted to remain British citizens to acquire British passports. Even after the compromise, the issue of citizenship and the immigration of Asians after independence continued to be fundamental problem in Anglo-Ugandan relations. The British Attorney General, Sir Peter Rawlinson explained the basis of the British decision in the following terms:

"In 1961 numbers of people were citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies by reason of their connection with the then United Kingdom dependencies in East Africa-Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda. As these countries became independent, they adopted their own nationality laws and the vast majority of persons who became nationals of these new states ceased to be our nationals... in accordance with the various independencies acts. The new States however, were unwilling to accept as their nationals all those who had previously been citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies by reason of their connection with the territories in question. (A great number of those who did not obtain a status as nationals of Kenya, Tanganyika or Uganda originally came from what are now India and Pakistan). They therefore remained citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies. We accept this. We did so to avoid them become stateless."23

The 1962 Act, was reinforced by the introduction of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1968. Under the 1968 Act, free entry into the United Kingdom was once again restricted. Having a British passport issued by the UK government was not in itself sufficient qualification for entry to the United Kingdom. Immigration controls were applied to all UK passport holders whose parents or grand parents were not born, naturalized, registered or adopted in the United Kingdom.24 The Act further affected nearly all Asians living in Uganda. As far as the Act was concerned all Asians living in Uganda and holding British passports, had the right of entry, but the British Government controlled the method and time

This policy was aimed at preserving small scale farming in Uganda as opposed to large scale settler farming in Kenya. By the time of independence, only a few rich Asians had acquired land. Such acquisition of land by those Asians were in exceptional cases: for instance:

a) for agricultural or industrial or other undertakings which will, in the judgement of the Governor-in-Council, promote the economic and social welfare of the inhabitants of the territory; and

b) for residential purposes when only a small area is involved.6

Among the rich Asians who acquired land were the Mehta and Madhvani families. They established large-scale sugar, tea, coffee and industrial estates which provided employment for the local population.

The majority of Asians in Uganda established themselves as semi-skilled workers, business people and traders. They lived and worked in trading and administrative centres all over the country. With financial assistance from banks in Uganda and India, as well as acting as middlemen in commercial transactions, they became involved in the buying and selling of agricultural produce from African peasants. As traders in business they:

laid the foundation for most of Uganda's commerce and industry, and particularly the cotton industry which was the mainstay of the Ugandan economy from the early days of the 20th century (until the coffee industry overtook it in the latter part of the 1960's.7

By 1962 the Asians had become the most dominant in the ginning, processing and marketing of African peasant produce. They had replaced the colonial government in those areas. They were also dominant in the wholesale and retail trade. For instance, the Asians controlled about 90% of the retail trade in the whole country by 1962.

 

3. Relationships between the Asians and the indigenous population

African animosity towards the Asian community in Uganda, explicitly and implicitly, was the result of several factors. The major aspect was the role of the Asians in the economic life of Uganda. The Africans were of the view that the Asians exploited them in employment, both as employers and fellow employees; as middlemen in commerce and in financial transactions. This situation was fertile ground for growing suspicion, fear and hatred. For instance it was a common allegation among Africans that:

"Asians in industries are more apt to keep to their caste... whether there are qualified fitters, mechanics or electrical engineers and others of Ugandan origin; Asian employers would employ Ugandans (blacks) at Shs. 400 per month while an illiterate artisan or mechanic would draw Shs. 2,000 or more per month.8

Indigenous Ugandans felt that while the rich Asians, like Mehta and Madhvani provided unskilled employment prospects, salaries, allowances, housing were racially discriminatory. Also the Asian petty traders in the urban areas were victims of African anger. This anger was generated by several factors. For instance, the Asians lived exclusively in trading centres, where all major social services were established. Africans were unable to break through into the urban life. This is because the prices of property and facilities in the urban centres were very high. Therefore, the Asian community was an isolated privileged people surrounded by poor African peasants. Also the Asian trading community was accused of malpractice in trade transactions. Such accusations included overcharging, hoarding, smuggling, underemployment, as well as being arrogant to wards the African consumers and producers of agricultural produce.

Another area of grievance was the educational system during the colonial period. African education was spearheaded by the Christian missionaries. When the colonial government started its educational policies, the Asians were already in a better position than the Africans. It was, therefore, government policy to educate the indigenous Africans in order to reduce the Asian influence in the civil service. The policy did not achieve much largely because the Asians had their separate schools and recreational centres. They also sent their children to Kenya and India for further studies. Having separate schools, they received the type of education which stressed their origins and exposed them to opportunities in administration, technical, professional and other fields. Their position in the urban areas gave them greater access to government and private sponsorship in schools and higher institutions of academic and technical instruction. Mittelman, in his examination of the three-tier system in education and administration in Uganda, asserted that:

This pattern of racial stratification was the product of British paternalism. Wittingly or unwittingly, the British, a people accustomed to rigid social distinctions themselves, established racial ordering in the colonies. Asian and African children attended their own schools, and the school system were separate but not equal. The 1959 figures for example indicate that expenditure in schools was at the rate of Pounds 186 per European, Pounds 38 per Asian, and Pound 11 per African in aided schools.9

Under such a system, the Asians were guaranteed access to better educational and training facilities that Africans, and therefore became employed in administration, private enterprise and in commerce as accountants, secretaries and clerks. However, as time went by, competition for commercial and civil services between Africans and Asians became inevitable as more Africans received education. Also the African pressure was aimed at gaining equality in education, fair chances in employment, and equality in the civil service.10 To achieve these objectives, more money was invested in paying for their children's education. By a joint effort of the government and missionaries, Africans were eventually able to occupy top positions in administration. Since the Asians had occupied the middle position in the civil service, while the Africans were in the lowest jobs, office relations were sometimes tense and uneasy. After independence, the struggle was in the middle positions in the civil service. Most of the African training and education was geared at replacing the Asians and other foreign skilled workers.

Another area of grievance was in the salaries and wages paid in the colonial administrative and social services, Africans in identical job with Asians, obtained pay that was racially determined,

Under the British, Asians and Africans doing identical jobs were paid at different rates. The correspondence between race and income carried over well into the post-colonial period... Asians earned more than Africans by multiples of 8.7 in private industry and 715 in the public services.11

Both the public and private sectors of the economy continued to be areas of African grievance. The British government through its policy of "Divide and Rule" engineered and encouraged such grievances. British policy on this question was to create a European upper class, Asian middle-class and African lower classes.

In an attempt to ease tension arising from such a situation, restrictions were introduced on non-African immigration. In 1944 the British government introduced restrictions to the number of Asians coming into Uganda. The policy was welcomed in Uganda, however it was very unpopular in India. Ultimately however, the policy was unsuccessful. Asian immigrants continued to flow into the country in increasing numbers. This is because there were vacancies which needed to be filled. The restrictions were relaxed because of the Asian practice of arranged marriages. As the city of Kampala grew as a result of the influx by the Asian immigrants, the pressure on the city service increased. Animosity towards the Asians became more apparent. The number of Asians in Uganda had increased from 35,215 in 1949 to 71,933 in 1959. 12 The following Table shows the trend of the Asian community in Uganda.

Table 1: Trends of the Asian Community in Uganda 1911-1972

Year Population

1911 2,216

1921 5,000

1926 5,000

1931 14,150

1948 35,767

1959 71,933

1963 82,400

1972 80,000 (approx.)

Source: Statistical Abstracts, Uganda, 1959, 1969, 1972.

The result of these accumulated grievances were the disturbances and boycotts of the 1940's and 1950's. The main cause of the 1949 riots was the refusal of the government to allow Africans to gin their own cotton. This demand was intended to break the Asian monopoly in ginning cotton. The issue began in 1948, when the Uganda African Produce Growers Union petitioned the Secretary of State for the Colonies demanding that the Cotton Fund should directly benefit the African cotton growers rather than the cotton buyers.

Sir Andrew Cohen's reforms had several dimensions resulting from internal pressures generated by nationalist movements, from the British administrative and changing international relations towards colonial territories and people. However, the reforms were half-hearted with a lot of repercussions. Several authors have dealt with these issues from various angles and are mentioned in the footnotes.13

In simple terms, the African Growers' Union wanted to completely eliminate the role of Asians as middlemen. The African peasants grew the cotton, therefore they should be allowed to sell it by themselves or the government should be directly involved, not the Asians. The Government promised to deal with their requests. As positive results from the Government were not forthcoming, riots broke out in 1949. Asian shops were boycotted and several Asians were victimised.

The Report on the riots made several recommendations on the prices and ginning of cotton. As the summary of the recommendations indicate, the conclusions were extremely ambiguous: The report, for instance, stipulates:

That in future when a price is fixed for produce it should be on a rather more liberal and a little less conservative basis.... that buying, ginning and marketing of cotton has hitherto been carried out by European andIndian capital and enterprise; the African has not contributed capital or shown the enterprise necessary to establish a ginnery... As the industry has grown up there has been nothing by way of legislation or other Government action to prevent the African from entering this side of the industry in open competition with the European and Indian....14

Such recommendations of the one-man Commission (Sir Joseph Sheridan) could only intensify the battle of the Africans through African Unions or organisations in order to achieve their goals. These recommendations did not even deal with the request by African concerning financial assistance to African peasants, pricing, ginning and marketing. The 1949 riots were also important as they produced some of the major political actors in nationalist politics of the period. For instance, Ignatius Musazi who was one of the organizers of the riots of 1949, became the founder of the first national political party in Uganda, the Uganda National Congress (UNC).

 

4. Asians in the Constitutional Development of Uganda

We now turn to the Asian question in relation to the constitutional and legal aspects in the development of Anglo-Ugandan relations. The question of Ugandan citizenship in the UNC programme ran counter to the British Government conception of citizenship in the context of the British Empire. The British policy on citizenship was made clear in a statement by Lord Salisbury when he said that:

"Imperial Overseas Settlement and the interchange of populations between one part of the British Commonwealth and others is essential to the future happiness and prosperity and even survival of the British Empire."15

Lord Salisbury was concerned with the free-flow of the peoples within the British Empire and the White Commonwealth. This was in 1943. As we have already noted, in the case of Uganda, the Colonial Government introduced restrictions on Indian immigration in 1944. Between 1947-8 and 1948 India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) gained independence. With the admission of India into the Commonwealth, the association passed from the White Commonwealth into a multi-racial Commonwealth. India (and Pakistan) became independent and also enacted their own nationality laws. In response to those changes in the British Commonwealth, the 1948 British Nationality Act was enacted. By this time the concept of a common nationality for the Empire was a dead letter.

The 1948 Act divided the British subjects/Commonwealth citizens into two categories: The first category included citizens of the UK and colonies who continued to have a common nationality. Regardless of race they were UK nationals under international Law. The second category was citizens of independent commonwealth countries. These were not nationals of the United Kingdom but continued to enjoy voting and certain other rights in the UK.16 During the colonial protectorate Ugandans were British nationals belonging to the first category. It should be noted that the Indian Government Representative in East Africa after India's independence in 1947, encouraged the Ugandan Asians to "integrate" instead of acquiring the new Indian citizenship. Also first Indian Prime Minister J. Nehru's message was that Indians who had settled in British colonial territories must identify themselves with those countries17. The 1948 Act only gave legal status to persons born in her colonies to be British nationals. It did not spell out the rights of entry and residence in the "mother" country.

In the same year (1948) the Colonial Ordinance was passed in Uganda to further restrict immigration there. The Ordinance prevented entry of non-Africans, except when the authorities were satisfied that such entry could be of contribution to the native interests. However, due to the level of economic and social development of Uganda the law was circumvented. It allowed people with special skills to come, live and work in Uganda. Also there was another social side to the law. The Asian marriage arrangements allowed Asians to join their spouses in Uganda.

As more and more colonies became independent, there was pressure in Britain to re-adjust the laws of nationality and immigration. In 1962 the British Parliament enacted the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. Explaining this position in his 1962 speech to the House of Commons the attorney-General Sir Peter Rawlinson asserted that:

"By nineteen sixty-two it has become clear that immigration to this country was increasing to an extent that made it difficult for us to assimilate the immigrants. And by the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 provision was made whereby the right of Commonwealth citizens (i.e. both citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies and of the independent Commonwealth countries) to enter the United Kingdom was restricted and regulated."18

The 1962 Act distinguished between nationality and immigration. The free entry was limited and reserved for persons born in the United Kingdom or persons who are British passport holders.

Two constitutional conferences were held in London in 1961 and 1962 in preparation for Uganda's independence. The question of citizenship, which was on the UNC programme as far back as 1952, formed part of the conference package. The Uganda constitutional conferences werebased on the recommendations of the Report of the Uganda Relationships Commission, 1961, which was also known as the Munster Commission after its chairman, Lord Munster. In its recommendations on the issue of citizenship, the commission stipulated that:

"As an independent country Uganda will need a citizenship law. We consider that the precise content of this lies beyond our terms of reference. But certain principles should be accepted at this stage, in order to prevent the question of citizenship becoming entangled with other more immediate constitutional questions."19

The Report realised that this issue was a tricky one and should be dealt with not solely as constitutional, but also in its international and political aspects. It emphasized that the question of citizenship should take into account fundamental human rights. Ugandan citizenship should not be related to the right to own land which was a sensitive issue. In summary, the Report recommended that:

"A citizenship law will be necessary in the future and should be approached on a non-racial, footing,land law and franchise should be regarded as quite separate questions."20

This recommendation on citizenship in Uganda re-affirmed the social and economic importance of land in Uganda emphasizing the 1900 Agreement provision on land tenure.

As the questions of citizenship and immigration were being handled at the constitutional conferences and through British legislation, the Asian Community was to bear the burden at the time. In his conclusions at the Uganda constitutional conference, on the citizenship debate, Reginald Maulding stated that:

"The Constitution will create a citizenship of Uganda. It will contain provisions dealing with the following aspect of this subject:- persons automatically acquiring Uganda citizenship on Independence; entitlement to citizenship of Uganda by registration; acquisition of Uganda citizenship by birth after independence; acquisition of Uganda citizenship by married women; dual citizenship."21

This was the basis of Clause 2 on Citizenship in the 1962 Constitution of Uganda (Chapter 11 of the Constitution of Uganda (First Amendment) Act. 1963). According to the letters of the constitution on citizenship:

"Every person who, having been born in Uganda, is on 8th October 1962 a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies or a British protected person shall become a citizen of Uganda on 9th October 1962: Provided that a person shall not become a citizen of Uganda by virtue of this subsection if neither of his parents was born in Uganda.22

The persons affected by the provision to Section (1) of the Constitution could apply to the Uganda government for registration as Uganda citizens, and then renounce any other citizenship. The Uganda constitution specified two years of Grace to those Asians and Europeans who intended to take up Ugandan citizenship. The Clause on Ugandan citizenship in the 1962 constitution indicates a compromise solution achieved at the constitutional conferences. Before independence, all "Uganda" were British subjects; at independence they were to become Uganda citizens. However, the future of the Asian community in Uganda was examined in a setting of suspicion and allegations between the Asian community and the African indigenous peoples. We have already examined several areas of friction. Political independence could not automatically erase such a situation.

Basing on her historical and international role towards the Asian community in Uganda, Britain gave an opportunity to those Asians who wanted to remain British citizens to acquire British passports. Even after the compromise, the issue of citizenship and the immigration of Asians after independence continued to be fundamental problem in Anglo-Ugandan relations. The British Attorney General, Sir Peter Rawlinson explained the basis of the British decision in the following terms:

"In 1961 numbers of people were citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies by reason of their connection with the then United Kingdom dependencies in East Africa-Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda. As these countries became independent, they adopted their own nationality laws and the vast majority of persons who became nationals of these new states ceased to be our nationals... in accordance with the various independencies acts. The new States however, were unwilling to accept as their nationals all those who had previously been citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies by reason of their connection with the territories in question. (A great number of those who did not obtain a status as nationals of Kenya, Tanganyika or Uganda originally came from what are now India and Pakistan). They therefore remained citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies. We accept this. We did so to avoid them become stateless."23

The 1962 Act, was reinforced by the introduction of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1968. Under the 1968 Act, free entry into the United Kingdom was once again restricted. Having a British passport issued by the UK government was not in itself sufficient qualification for entry to the United Kingdom. Immigration controls were applied to all UK passport holders whose parents or grand parents were not born, naturalized, registered or adopted in the United Kingdom.24 The Act further affected nearly all Asians living in Uganda. As far as the Act was concerned all Asians living in Uganda and holding British passports, had the right of entry, but the British Government controlled the method and timeof exercising that particular right.

The 1968 Act was in the interest of both Asian-British passport holders and the British government. Both Acts controlled the pace of entry to help the Asians coming into Britain to be assimilated in an orderly manner. The admission of that category of citizens into the United Kingdom, then residing in Uganda, was strictly on the basis of a voucher system. The voucher system, en block allowed 3500 Asians from East Africa to enter the United Kingdom. In 1970, negotiations between Uganda and Britain which aimed at convincing Uganda to accept the conditions and the rate of entry under the 1968 Act, failed.25

In 1971 another Act, the Immigration Act, 1971, was enacted by Parliament. This Act replaced all the previous immigration Acts. It established a unified body of law for all immigrants, including all Commonwealth citizens. U.K. citizens or aliens. However, increased pressure to change the immigration laws, was a response to the increase in immigrants from Asia, Africa and the West Indies. For instance, in 1968, around 60,000 Asians had migrated to Britain from Kenya. The British immigration Acts passed between 1962 and 1971 directly affected the position of Asians in Uganda, especially those who had acquired or who were in the process of acquiring British passports.

 

5. Post Independence Development in Uganda

In 1962 Uganda achieved independence from Britain. As an independent state she had the right to enact her own laws regarding citizenship, immigration and emigration in her territorial entity. The Asian community in Uganda were in a very controversial position at independence. As Michael Tribe state of:

"When independence came in the early 1960's the Asians were in considerable difficulty. Many of them were ambivalent in their attitude towards African nationalism. Asian leaders had expressed their solidarity with African nationalism...but there is no doubt that many other Asians had grave misgivings about the future."26

As a result of the independence conferences and under the 1961 Constitution, the Asians in Uganda were given several alternatives on the question of citizenship. They could register as Ugandan citizens within the two years of Grace; they could also apply for British passports; or decide on any other citizenship apart from the above alternatives. However, under the constitution of Uganda, dual citizenship was not acceptable.

Constitutionally it was easy for a significant proportion of Asians in Uganda to qualify for Ugandan citizenship. This is because they were either born in Uganda or at least one of their parents was born in Uganda. Also non-Africans born in Uganda who became naturalized British subjects while Uganda, could acquire Ugandan citizenship by application with the two years of grace.27 By 1964 around 7,448 people had registered as Ugandan citizens, 90% of these were of Asian origin. The number of Asians in Uganda was approximately 80,000.

In the 1967 Republican constitution, one could acquire citizenship when his or her parents/grand parents were born in Uganda since independence. While this legislation affected the Asians, already the two year limit for registrations and renunciation of the dual citizenship was over by 1964.

"The East African Governments (Uganda) took the view that choice of citizenship within a fixed period was a fair test of commitment to the country and that afterwards it was entitled to discriminate between its own citizens and aliens in the provision of jobs and school places, both in acute shortage. The pressure to do so came largely from the growing pool of unemployed Africans."28

By the end of 1969, only 20,000 Asians had obtained registration for Ugandan citizenship. By now the number of Asians living in |Uganda was around 73,000. The process of registration was very complicated. Technical problems were involved in both types of registration, both with the British High Commission in Kampala and with the Ugandan Government. For instance, as far as 1966.

"Asians with U.K. passports who wished to acquire Ugandan citizenship were given three months to fulfil a series of complex procedures, which included renouncing their British citizenship. The renunciation procedure through the British High Commission invariably took longer. As a result these people lost their chance to become Ugandan citizens, and remained U.K. passport-holders."29

Accordingly, there were many cases and these needed more time. There were delays in completing the formal registration on the part of the |British authorities. Since registration included renunciation of British citizenship, the 90 day period was exceeded. The delays were on all sides, the British authorities, the Asians concern and the Ugandan authorities. However:

"The British government undertook a period of patient negotiation with Uganda on the matter, and President Obote finally agreed to restore the Ugandan citizenship of these Asians at the end of 1970."30

One of the reasons for the Ugandan authorities to agree to the change was because several important Asians in government and business were affected. These included the Speaker of the National parliament, members of Parliament and industrialists. However, this situation did not lastlong because Obote was overthrown at the beginning of 1971.

The immigration legislations in Uganda went hand in hand with economic transformations. The Ugandan government embarked on economic measures to reduce the gap between the Asians and Africans. More government assistance was offered to Africans in the fields of training and education, than to the Asians. The government of Uganda was of the view that most of the Asians who went abroad for further training did not return to Uganda. Those who returned did not want to work in government institutions. They preferred working in the private sector or at least did more than one job. For instance, between 1962 and 1968 the statistics of Asian graduates show that a smaller number worked in government services than did in private enterprise. Out of the 417 who trained as engineers only 20 worked for the government; Out of 217 doctors, only 15 worked for the government and out of 96 lawyers only 18 worked in government positions.31

The Asian community in Uganda was also affected by 1964 Foreign Investment Protection Act, an Act which was reaffirmed in the 1967 Republication Constitution, emphasizing guarantees against expropriation. However, nationalization of private enterprises were to be carried out in the public interest. The adequate conditions were provided for, especially the prompt and adequate compensation for the nationalized assets.32 Also the Second Five Year Development Plan, stated that:

"The Government is taking an increasing interest in aiding small industries and commercial ventures by Ugandans, so that a multiplicity of small enterprises should flourish alongside large-scale industry."33

This economic approach in the Development Plan was accompanied by the new Uganda immigration Act of 1967. The Act stipulated that all non-citizens in Uganda had to get work permits in order to work in Uganda. In the following year, the Uganda Parliament passed the Trade Licensing Act, which was aimed at non-Ugandans. It stipulated that no new trading licences were to be issued to non-Ugandans, and no old licenses were to be renewed for non-Ugandans. This legislation which aimed at streamlining the economy of Uganda made the position of the Asian businessmen holding British passports, more insecure.

In 1969 the Government intensified its process of Ugandanization. In 1969 the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) - the ruling party approved the document entitled "First Steps for Uganda to Move to the Left". The document reaffirmed the government's determination to put political and economic power in the hands of the majority of the citizens of Uganda. This could only be achieved by the exploitation of the material and human resources in the interest of all the people of Uganda. The document stated that nationalisation of privately-owned enterprise was an important step in that direction. Also that public interest could be served when private, local and foreign firms, offered partnership with the Uganda Government establishments or parastatal bodies. As Douglas Tilbe asserted:

Obote set out to Africanise Ugandan business by law. The Immigration Act (1969) invalidated the rights of non-nationals to live and work in the country and force them to apply for work permits which could run for a maximum of eight years. It was his (Obote's) intention that all existing resident aliens would have been replaced by Africans by 1977, Additional legislation was aimed at controlling the geographical areas and the range of commercial activities in which Asians could engage.34

In the 1970 May Day pronouncements, more government involvements in the private sector and nationalization were proclaimed. This move affected a large number of Asian and British businesses. We shall examine the impact of these pronouncements in the Anglo-Ugandan economic relations in a later part of this article. However, under the first phase of the May nationalization programme, 81 British firms were affected. The 60 per cent government shares in the British and Asian (non-citizen, and mostly British passport holders), brought a lot of resentment and increased panic among the business sector. The reaction to this move was felt in British circles:

The British firms which felt that 60 per cent of their shares had been ╬expropriated' brought pressure on the British government to intervene in Uganda. The request, which was sent by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) called for concerted action by governments ... to assist the companies which ware being denied the rights under international law to adequate and effective compensation ... The association for the Promotion and Protection of Private Foreign Investments also met in Zurich and agreed to ╬keep the Uganda situation under review'.35

While the issue of nationalization was taking on a British and international outlook, Asian businessmen in Uganda had no organized voice. The Asian capacity to influence the government in both political and economic circles was dwindling. The government's decision on "economic nationalization" did not only affect foreign business, but also affected the morale of the whole of Asian community.

At the same time, entry into the United Kingdom had become a precarious issue. This state of affairs was clarified by Sir Ian MacLeod, the former conservative colonial secretary, in an open letter to the Secretary for Commonwealth Relations, Duncan Sandys. In this letter it was stated that:

there had always been a clear understanding that the retention of U.K. passports by these Asians in Kenya and Uganda would entitle them to entry into the United Kingdom.36

However, such undertakings had to take into account the legalistic and domestic factors which dictated the order and speed of the exercise of entry into the United Kingdom. For instance, Rosalyn Higgins.37 argues that the "passport carries rights to enter but not necessarily a right to enter immediately". This is a legalistic point of view regarding entry into the passport-issuing country. However, from the domestic and political point of view, the Home Secretary, Robert Carr explained in 1972 that "the control of speed at which the right could be exercised" was within British jurisdiction. This stand on the part of the Asians was being affected by the continued pressure from the domestic situation in Uganda.

The Asian question was not only discussed between the two countries but also in the Commonwealth Context. Several attempts, on the part of HM government and that of Uganda aimed at having an orderly process of immigration of Asian British passport-holders. This was in both bilateral and commonwealth contexts. There are hundreds of thousands of British passport holders in Asia, Africa and the West Indies. The agenda of the 1971 Singapore Commonwealth Conference of the Heads of State and Governments contained the issue of immigration within the Commonwealth.

This conference, however, was dominated by other burning issues among the African leaders. Among the issues were whether the British were intending to resume arms sales to South Africa; and the question of apartheid and racial discrimination in South Africa (and in the Commonwealth in general). President Obote was one of the extreme exponents of the African leaders on this issue of arms sales to South Africa. The Anglo-Ugandan diplomatic relations, the Singapore Conference nearly resulted in a face-to-face confrontation between Obote and Edward Heath, the British Premier. The relationship between the two leaders became sour. This situation did not improve prospects for British business and Asian passport holders in Uganda.

At the Singapore conference, the issue of immigration, which was on the agenda was not even discussed. The 35-page study presented to the conference by the Commonwealth study on immigration by consultants from the University of Sussex was only circulated to the delegates. The question of immigration had been overtaken by international events. The negotiations between the two countries on the question were also affected by the fall of Obote's government in January 1971. In the same year the British parliament passed the new British immigration Act. This Act repealed the earlier Acts and consolidated the provisions of the 1968 Immigration Act.

 

6. Idi Amin and the Asian Question

The 1971 Amin coup at least meant that the pace of nationalization would be slowed down or stopped completely. The British companies and businesses as well as the Asian community welcomed the new development in Uganda. In his speech on the Labour Day in 1971, Amin stressed:

the importance of private sector in the economic development. The Government (was) to provide direction and impetus through coordinated plan (national strategy). Private savings and investments are important.38

This new approach to the private sector was supported by foreign businessmen and Asian traders. There was an enthusiastic support for the 1971 coup,

"hoping to obtain trade liberalization and further renewals of trading licenses. Asians merchants and industrialists extended automatic support to the Amin regime...In 1971, Amin rewarded traders and merchants with almost unlimited import licenses. But this honeymoon did not last long because of the local pressure from the manufactures and small business."39

On the question of citizenship, Amin stated just after the coup in February 1971 that:

"In the matter of citizenship, Government will respect all citizenship certificates which were properly issued before the 25th January 1971."40

In his view the certificates properly issued meant first those issued within the two years after independence, and second, issued to the Asians who have only one citizenship. All members of any given Asian family were not to have different citizenship. Different citizenship meant lack of confidence in the country of residence (Uganda). Also by this time, arrangements had been reached between Britain and the East African states. The vouchers were allocated to 1,500 Asians to enter Britain.41

Domestically, Amin turned to the Asian issue, as a soft target; and in his 4th August 1972 Speech, he stated that:

one of its (government) primary duties is to ensure the welfare of all members of the community ...(and) no one section of the community can be allowed to dominate, control or monopolize the business life of the nation. No country can tolerate the economy of its nation being so much in the hands of non-citizens as in the case of Uganda today. The Asian community has frustrated attempts by Uganda Africans to participate in the economic and business life of their country. Asians have used their economic power to ensure that the Ugandan Africans are effectively exculuded from participating in the economic life of theircountry. They have used their family ties, their languages which are unknown to Ugandans to exclude Ugandan Africans from the business life of their own country. They have refused to identify themselves with Uganda. For instance, at independence, whenb they (Asians) were offered the change to become Ugandan citizens, the majority rejected the offer...42

In this speech Amin mentioned several reasons for the decision to expel the Asians from Uganda. These reasons, as we have discussed, have a long history behind them. He mentioned the question of dual citizenship of some Asians. He also emphasized that throughout history the Asians have lived as an isolated ╬closed' community and refused to integrate with the Ugandan-Africans. Asians were allegedly involved in the illegal export of money from Uganda.43

The announcement made on the 9th August, expelled the British-Asian passport holders:

the decision of my Government to ask the British Government to take over responsibility for the British Citizens of Asian origin living in Uganda who were sabotaging the economy of this country and were practising and ecouraging corruption... their continued presence in Uganda was no longer in the country's best interests, would be given three months within which to leave the country".44

The decision meant that at least 23,00 Asian British passport holders were to leave the country. However, after four days Amin decreed that all Asians were to be affected. This move was not entirely unexpected, but it sent waves that shook the world community. The expulsion of Asians was no longer only a matter for Britain and Uganda. The Decree of 9th August, 1972 revoked:

all entry permits and certificates of residence which had been granted British passport-holders, nationals of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. They are however, permitted to stay in Uganda for a maximum period of 90 days from today (9th August). That means that the persons affected should make arrangements to remove themselves from Uganda during this period... after the expiry of the 90 days period, any of these people who will still be in Uganda, will be doing so illegally and will face the consequences.45

Accompanying this decree, was a statutory instrument which exempted the Asian professionals; and owners of industrial and agricultural enterprises; and all persons employed in the government, the East African Community and International Organizations. Later, this exemption was withdrawn.

The above statement was read before the leaders of the Asian community in Uganda, in the presence of several diplomats in Uganda including the Acting British High Commissioner, Richard Slater. Representing his government's stand on the matter, Richard Slater said that:

"the British Government would find it extremely difficult to cope with such influx of British passport-holders...although it (H.M.Government) had, all along made it clear that it accepted the final responsibility for them"46

This move was the first of several escalations in the tense relations between Britain and Uganda under Amin's regime. The British High Commission in Kampala was put on full alert by H.M Government to monitor all development in this matter.

Britain attempted to induce Amin to reverse the decision by using all possible diplomatic and international channels. As the British High Commissioner, Richard Slater became intensively involved in the process of persuading the President of Uganda to reverse the decision, his relation with Amin became very sour. Amin demanded that he be recalled at the end of the 90 days deadline. The strained relationship between Amin and Slater made the British High Commission inactive in terms of representation in Uganda. What remained of the High Commission was to process the documents of those expelled Asians and to coordinate with other diplomatic representatives in Kampala in assisting Britain alleviate the situation.

Several members of the House of Commons appealed to the British Government to change the immigration controls to quicken the entry of the expelled Asians. The Government rejected this approach. Explaining this position, the Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Lane, asserted that:

"the British Government hoped that such resistance would strengthen its position against Amin's flagrant abuse of international norms of behaviour".47

The British Government sent a senior Minister in the Foreign Office to Uganda to negotiate with Amin. He was Geoffrey Rippon, whose mission was to convince Amin to practically reverse the expulsion order. This meant that Britain was prepared to increase the quota of the voucher system. The second option was the extension of the deadline to more than three months. Rippon's mission did not achieve any of the options. In his press conference Rippon raised several issues. He reaffirmed Britain's responsibility over the U.K. passport holders, but reiterate that the Ugandan Government had the "responsibilities also to see that policies are carried out in a decent, human and orderly way". The Asians (Uganda citizens) were around 23,000 but there were extreme anxieties amongst them.48

During the Amin-Rippon meeting Amin assured him that the Asians could sell their property and the funds would not be expropriated. Amin stuck to this deadline, and that if it were not fulfilled the Asians would be put into camps. These camps would be run by the Red Cross and bodies dealing with refugees. Since the Rippon mission made little progress the British government embarked on discussions with various governments and the United Nations to assist in solving the long-term affair. This was an international affair which needed great international effort, and Britain was at the centre of the affair.

The British Home Secretary Robert Carr made a public statement on the issue of "United Kingdom passport holders". He informed the British public that Amin had discussions with the Prime Minister as well as meeting the British representative Mr. Rippon. He reaffirmed British responsibility for the passport holders, and that the Government obtained assurance from Uganda of fair treatment for the British Asians. The British High Commission in Kampala was reinforced to help sort out the British passport holders and their dependents; as well as making arrangements with the Uganda Government that an orderly and proper manner be observed during the whole expulsion process.49

In August, the seven man Ugandan Resettlement Board was set up in Britain under the Chairmanship of Sir Charles Cunningham. The Board dealt with the resettlement of the expelled Asians in Britain. It's major duty was to ensure that no excessive strain was put on community relations in Britain, taking into account the housing, schools and social services. This was the domestic approach to the problem in Britain. It was the responsibility of the Government, in the name of the Home Secretary, to see to it that this process gained positive publicity so as to ease any tension in British society. It was important to restore confidence in the public. It was the British public which was going to shoulder the burden of the Asians. The question of employment, housing, pensions, schooling, finance, health and other services were on top of the public agenda. The press was at the forefront of enlightening the public to the consequences and approaches to this human tragedy. The government was obliged to try and diffuse the alarmist and extreme approaches of Enoch Powell and National Front. Governmental, voluntary and Church organizations were all involved in making resettlement less painful to the Asians as well as the general public.

The foreign and international fronts were handled by the Government through the Foreign office, and international organizations. In his televised speech to the British people and international community, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Sir Alex Douglas-Home emphasised several aspects of this "human problem". He described Amin's decision as "inhuman and unjust" and that:

"all economic relations between Britain and Uganda will have to be reviewed, and right at the start of this affair I(Douglas-Home) suspended any further action on the 10 million pounds sterling loan which was in progress because it was quite clear even then that we should have to use some of our resources to help in resettlement".50

The decision taken on the economic relations and aid was intended to put pressure on Amin to reconsider his decision to expel the Asians. This was explicit in his broadcast, when he said that he hoped Amin could be persuaded to change his mind and that the British Government was working on that line.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home appealed to the Commonwealth, foreign countries and the international community to assist in the resettlement. Sir Alec reaffirmed British moral and legal obligations and duties, but stated that they could only be fulfilled with the total assistance of the people of the United Kingdom. The British Government also made contact with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at Geneva. In his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Sir Alec stated the British position on the Ugandan Question and called upon all members to ask Amin to extend the deadline, and to allow the Asians to take their belongings with them from Uganda.51

Sir Crowe, the British Permanent Representative, in his statement to the General Committee of the United Nations, emphasized that while some Asians had citizenship, thousands were rendered stateless. Therefore, this became the responsibility of the international community. He stressed that this matter was wider than domestic jurisdiction, because it raised the issue of humanitarian aspects - universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedom for all.52

In the East African context, the expulsion was received by the Asians as a climax to the deteriorating relations between the Asian issue and African governments' rapid step in the already existing process. Reactions of the neighbouring countries were not encouraging to the Asians living there and to the British government. Tanzania and Kenya decided to close their borders with Uganda. These countries feared that the expelled Asians might decide to join their kith and kin in Kenya and Tanzania. The Kenyan government and press were extremely hostile towards the Asians in their country. For instance, Kenya's Assistant Home Affairs Minister, Martin Shikuku cautioned non-Kenyan Asians that they could face a similar situation like the Ugandan Asians. He accused them of sending money abroad and sabotaging Kenya's economy.53

This situation was a delicate one for Britain. Firstly, there were tens of thousands of Asian British passport holders in Kenya. Kenya had already sent to Britain more than 60,000 British Asians by 1972. Secondly, the British government felt that if the 90-day deadline was reached, some remaining Asians could be shipped through the Indian Ocean. But Kenya and Tanzania had closed their borders. There was also a military conflict between Uganda and Tanzania in September 1972. Finally, although the expulsion of the Asians was a major problem for Britain, it had taken on a wider dimension as a Commonwealth problem. The British government feared that such expulsions may spread to other countries. There was need for the British government to appeal to other Commonwealth countries to assist in the absorption of the Asians and condemnation of Amin's actions.

Domestically, the British public were totally angered by Amin's decision, and pressures mounted on the government to take a tough line. On 1st December the British Government responded. They cancelled all aid to Uganda, including the 10 million pounds offered to the regime after the coup; and all technical aid projects and programmes.54 Amin reacted by nationalizing 41 foreign owned companies (including 15 British owned). The small scale plantations and British investments like Michell Cotts and British American Tobacco (BAT) were also nationalized. Britain came neared to breaking off diplomatic relations. However a major review of all economic and political relations between the two countries was recommended by British government. The British government decided to cut off aid to Uganda and diplomatic relations were broken.

The Asian Question exposed Amin's inhumane acts not only with respect to the natives of Uganda but also to foreigners. The expulsion exposed Amin as a personality prone to erratic and unpredictable decisions. The question raised the issues to respect for human rights and fundamental freedom and respect of agreements between nations; the importance of international organizations like the UNHCR and the Commonwealth in joint approaches to international crises. The question had also dealt with the role of pressures from the public and the press; and the competence of diplomatic representation. The Asian expulsion was the first of several crises between |Uganda and Britain during Amin's regime and the Asian expulsion continued as a problem in Anglo-Ugandan relations in the aspects of nationalization, and compensation to the Asians who were expelled.

 

7. Conclusion

The paper has discussed the historical development of the Asian Question in Uganda. It has examined the social, economic, educational, political, constitutional, administrative and diplomatic aspects on the Question in Uganda's relations with Britain up to 1972.

It has been argued in the paper that the Asian Question is a political question. The introduction of Asians in Uganda was to serve an economic purpose but in the long run the issue developed to affect social, constitutional, and Uganda's relations with Britain after independence.

When Amin was overthrown in 1979 many attempts were made for the return of the expelled Asians. The return of the Asians to Uganda was connected with several issues. These included foreign investment, foreign aid by donor agencies and Western donor countries. The Asian Question remains one of the persistent issues as it hinges on social, economic, political aspects in Uganda and Uganda's relations with Britain and other countries. The Asian Question remains a dominant feature in the relations between Uganda and Britain.

 

ENDNOTES

1. James H. Mittelman, Ideology and Politics in Uganda, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1975, p.63.

2. William A. Veenhoven and Winfred Coum Ewing, et. al. (eds), Case Studies on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: World Survey, volume Four, The Hague; 1976, p.290. Martinis Nijhoff.

3. Mittelman, op. cit., p. 63.

4. Veenhoven et. al. (eds), op.cit., p.292.

5. Cmnd 9475, East Africa Royal Commission, 1953-1955 Report, HMSO, London, June 1955, pp17-18.

6. Ibid., p.18.

7. Venhoven, et al, op.cit., p.291.

8. Michael Twaddle, (ed), Expulsion of a Minority: Essays on Ugandan Asians, London: The Athlone press, 1975, p.90.

9. Mittelman, op.cit., p.64

10. Twaddle (ed), op.cit., p.101.

11. Mitteleman, op.cit., 14 May 1997-5.

12. J.J. Jorgensen, Uganda: A Modern History, London: Croom Helm, 1981, p.188.

13. Ramkrishna Murkherjee, Uganda: The Problem of Acculturation, Berlin, Akademie-Verlog, 1956, Mamdani M. Politics and Class Formation, London: Monthly Review, 1976, Nabudere D., The Political Economy of Imperialism in Uganda, London: Zed, 1976, Mamdani M. Imperialism and Fascism, Nairobi: Heinemann, 1983, J. Oloka Onyango, "Race, Class and Imperialism in Uganda", a paper presented at a Conference.

14. Uganda Protectorate, Report of the Commission on Inquiry into the Disturbances in Uganda during April, 1949 Entebbe: Government Printer, 1950 pp.121, 70.

15. Cmnd. 6658, Migration Within the British Commonwealth, HMSO, London, p.154.

16. Michael Akehurst, A Modern Introduction to International Law, (5th ed). London: George Allen and Unwin, 1984, p.84.

17. Twaddle (ed)., op.cit., p.24.

18. Sir Peter Rawlinson, East African Asians: Attorney General, London Press Service, Thursday 31st August, 1972.

19. Uganda Protectorate, Report of the Ugandan Relationships Commission 1961, Chairman Rt. Hon. The Earl of Munster, Entebbe: Government Printer, Uganda, 1961, p.68.

20. Ibid., p.170.

21. Hansard, H.C. 662, Col.25, 3 July 1962.

22. Uganda Government, Uganda Constitutional Instruments. Entebbe: Government Printer, 1962. The Constitution of Uganda (first amendment) Act, 1963, Government printer, Entebbe, Uganda, 1963.

23. Sir Peter Rawlinson, op.cit., 31 August, 1972.

24. Twaddle (ed), op.cit., p.196.

25. Ibid., p.197.

26. Douglas Tilbe, The Ugandan Asian Crisis, London: Litho Printers Ltd., 1972, p.6.

27. Veenhoven et.al (eds), op.cit., p.293.

28. Tilbe, op.cit., p.7.

29. Ibid., p.7.

30. Veenhoven et. al (eds) op.cit., pp.294-5.

31. Ibid., p.297.

32. The Constitution of Uganda (1962), Chapter Three, Article 22. Also: the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Entebbe: Government Publications, 1967, Ch.III, Section 13.

33. Uganda Government, Work for Progress, Second Five Year Plan 1996-67 - 1970-71, Entebbe, Government Printer, 1965, p.15.

34. Tilbe, op.cit., p.7.

35. The Times, London 6 July 1970.

36. The Spectator, February 32, 1968.

37. Rosalyn Higgins, "The Right in International Law of an Individual to Enter, Stay in and Leave a Country", International Affairs, Vol.49, No.31, July 1973, pp.345-6.

38. Martin Minogue and Judith Molloy, African Aims and Attitudes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974, p.366.

39. J.J. Jorgensen, op.cit., p.271.

40. Michael A. Vennhoven (eds) op.cit., p.301-2.

41. Hansard, H.C. Vol.818, Col. 380-85, 26 May, 1971.

42. Martin Minogue and J. Mollou, op.cit., p.368.

43. Ibid., pp.368-369.

44. Statement issued on 9th August, 1972 by H.E. The President of Uganda concerning the Status of the Asian Community in Uganda, Commonwealth News Review, 1972.

45. Ibid., pp.1-2.

46. Michael, A. Veenhoven, (eds)., op.cit., p.305.

47. William G. Kuepper, G. Lynne Lackey and N.e. Swinerton, Ugandan Asians in Great Britain, Forced Migration and Social Absorption, London: Croom Helm, 1975, p.415.

48. London Press Service (VS), "Ugandan Asians: Mr. Rippon's Press Conference", Wednesday 16th August, 1972.

49. London Press Service (VS), "United Kingdom Passport Holders, Mr. Robbert Carr", Friday 18th August, 1972.

50. London Press Service (VS), "Foreign Secretary on Ugandan Asians: Sir Alex Douglas-Home, Thursday 31st August 1972.

51. USIS, Mr. Car, Speech, 8th September, 1972.

52. United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations, Sir Colin Crowe's Statement on "the International Implications of the Expulsion of the Asian Community in Uganda", A/8794/No.42, September, 1972.

53. The Times, September 6-9, 1972.

54. Mamdani, M. Imperialism and Fascism in Uganda, Nairobi, London: Heinemann, 1983, p.65.

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