Ugandan Asians Case Study

Source-based Assessment: Case Study Uganda

This case study has a section A and B. Section A consists of written sources and questions and answers to follow. Section B consists of visual sources with their own set of questions and answers

Background for section A

Uganda became independent from Britain in 1962. King Edward Muteesa II became President and Commander in Chief of the armed forces. In 1966, Milton Obote overthrew the king and became president. In 1971, Idi Amin Dada Oumee (1925 - 2003), commonly known as Idi Amin, took power in a military coup. He became the military dictator and president of Uganda from 1971 to 1979.

Section A: Written sources

Source A

Idi Amin, who became known as the 'Butcher of Uganda' for his brutal, despotic rule whilst president of Uganda in the 1970s, is possibly the most notorious of all Africa's post-independence dictators. Amin seized power in a military coup in 1971 and ruled over Uganda for 8 years. Estimates for the number of his opponents who were killed, tortured, or imprisoned vary from 100,000 to half a million.

- Fact source:

Source B

"Politics is like boxing - you try to knock out your opponents. In any country there must be people who have to die. They are the sacrifices any nation has to make to achieve law and order."

- Idi Amin. Source:

Source C

"The people don't have any problem with my father."

- Amin's son, Haji Ali Amin. Source:

Source D

"He raped the whole country of morality, of integrity. He implemented a trend of corruption in a people who were not corrupt. He raised a generation of people who wanted to steal for personal gain rather than to work".

- Robert Kayanja, Miracle Centre Cathedral in Kampala, Uganda. Source:

Source E

"Even Amin does not know how many people he has ordered to be executed... The country is littered with bodies".

- Henry Kyemba, Amin's long time friend and a former health minister. Source:

Source F

Amin led one of the bloodiest regimes in African history. Former Ugandan leader Idi Amin was generally caricatured abroad as a figure of fun, because of his boorish antics and violent mood swings.

- Fact from:

Source G

"He rejected any responsibility for the years of brutality, for the murder of his opponents . All had been fabricated by his enemies, he insisted".

- Brian Barron, BBC Correspondent for Africa, on an interview with Amin in exile in Saudi Arabia in 1980

Source H

Indians were stereotyped as "greedy and conniving always cheating, conspiring and plotting" to subvert Uganda. Amin used this propaganda to justify a campaign of "de-Indianization".

On 4 August 1972, Idi Amin, President of Uganda, gave Ugandan's Asians 90 days to leave the country, following an alleged dream in which, he claimed, God told him to expel them.

Ugandan soldiers during this period engaged in theft and violence against the Asians with impunity. After their expulsion, their businesses were handed over to Amin's supporters.

- Fact from:

Source I

"Nyerere, President of Tanzania took an "uncompromising stand against the brutal regime of Idi Amin in Uganda in the late 1970s. Despite almost universal condemnation of the dictator's excesses, it was left to Tanzania to intervene militarily and dislodge Amin".

- Extract from 'The Gaurdian' newspaper

Questions on Section A

1. Which source is the only one that is complimentary about Amin?

2. Why do you think this source is complimentary?

3. Which was the only country to step in militarily and remove Amin from power?

4. Use all the sources to help you to write a list of all the things that made Amin's Uganda a totalitarian military dictatorship.


1. Source C.

2. It was said by his son.

3. Tanzania.

4. Brutal; despotic; Amin seized power in a military coup; opposition to Amin was not allowed; opponents were imprisoned, tortured and killed; violent; disregard for human rights; racist; stereotyped 'the other' (Indians).

Background for section B

The word "caricature" essentially means a "loaded portrait". A caricature is a portrait that exaggerates or distorts the essence of a person to create an easily identifiable visual likeness. This is done by exaggerating of some characteristics, and oversimplification of others.

Caricatures can be insulting or complimentary, and can serve a political purpose or be drawn solely for entertainment. Caricatures of politicians are commonly used in editorial cartoons in newspapers.

Idi Amin, the former dictator of Uganda weighed 300 pounds and was 6 feet 3 inches tall. His butchery and buffoonery made him an obscene caricature of the Third World dictator throughout the 1970s.

Question for section B

1. Both these cartoons are caricatures of Idi Amin. How would you describe the way he is drawn in both cartoons?

2. How is he dressed in both cartoons?

3. What do the skull and skeletons represent?

4. In what way did Amin's government say that the Archbishop died?

5. In what way did the Archbishop die, according to the artist in Source A?

6. Source A has been given the title "A car accident'. Suggest a title for Source B.

7. Do you think these cartoons are reliable or trustworthy in their view of Amin's leadership of Uganda?


1. He is depicted as a bloated, powerful figure with a small head, and a large body. He appears self-important and pleased with himself.

2. He is in military dress covered with medals and insignia.

3. The skull and skeleton represent the people he was responsible for killing.

4. In a car accident.

5. He was murdered by Amin's government.

6. "The Butcher of Uganda" or any other suitable title.

7. Yes, all the evidence in the written sources supports the view that he was a brutal leader who imprisoned, tortured and killed his opponents.

Section B: Visual sources

Source A

This cartoon is entitled "A car accident". Dictator Idi Amin ruled Uganda with a reign of terror. When Uganda's outspoken Anglican Archbishop Janani Luwum and two senior cabinet ministers were murdered in a so-called 'car accident' world opinion turned against Amin.

Cartoon source:

Forty years ago this month, in August 1972, President Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of Asians from Uganda. The expulsion was in many ways a classical move to divert attention away from the country’s political and economic troubles and on to a scapegoat minority.  Predictably, it did little to help resolve Uganda’s problems, and in fact worsened them.

The population of South Asian descent in Uganda at the time was around 60,000, of whom about half held British passports (mostly giving them the ambivalent status of British protected persons); others could claim Indian or Pakistani citizenship, or had a claim to Ugandan citizenship.  Many of the latter were rendered effectively stateless in the wake of the expulsion order.  Most of the Asians left Uganda, leaving a small presence behind. The majority of those who had British passports were granted entry into the UK in the course of about three months in 1972.  An unknown number made for India and Pakistan.  Many of those made stateless or of undetermined nationality were resettled in Europe and North America.

Those expelled effectively became ‘twice migrants’ – a term that comes from Parminder Bhachu’s 1985 book on East African Sikh settlers in the UK. The Ugandan Asians’ forbears had been brought by the British from India in the nineteenth century to run the railways, serve in army or staff the civil service; then they were made to move on in a messy process of diasporisation – or ‘re-diasporisation’ perhaps. Unlike other South Asian migration over several decades to the UK and other places, this scattering was precipitated by a single episode, the 1972 expulsion.

Looking back

Despite the distress of the expulsion and the initial experience in holding camps, the resettlement of those affected was accomplished fairly effectively.  The new arrivals in the UK faced hardship and hostility at first – many made for Leicester where their reception was mixed to say the least – but they nevertheless managed to establish themselves relatively quickly.

I organised a twenty year retrospective in 1992 at the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford to mark the expulsion and explore its consequences.  By then Ugandan Asians (like those who arrived a few years earlier from Kenya) had pretty much established themselves in the UK – they had got on to the property ladder, advanced through education, and got jobs in the professions. ‘Marching into the middle classes?’ was how one article put it in the special issue of the Journal of Refugee Studies (Vol 6, no 3, 1993) that came out of the conference.

This incorporation – middle class or not – has continued so that today Ugandan Asians are all but invisible in British society. The expulsion might figure occasionally in film – a cameo in The Last King of Scotland, for example, or in documentaries about the 1970s – but that’s been about it. Invisibility is arguably a mark of successful integration?

The fortieth anniversary is being marked though. Leicester Arts and Museums Service, for example, has put on a series of special events and exhibitions. From Kampala to Leicester: the story of Leicester’s Ugandan Asian community, 1972 – 2012( shows how Ugandan Asians adapted to life in the UK and how the community influenced the development of the city.

Tentative return

Partly under international pressure, legislation was introduced in Uganda years after the expulsion to restore property or compensate for its loss, and Asians were encouraged to come back by the Yoweri Museveni regime. Quite substantial numbers returned to Uganda. Many had difficulties in reclaiming property, despite the legislation allowing restitution, but some have been successful. In some cases those returning have become very wealthy. One who left with his parents as a young man in 1972 returned decades later and now runs a bank, a private school, a club, and a resort and conference centre – which has hosted a reunion of those expelled in 1972.  A new wave of migration from India to Uganda has emerged as returned expellees – or their descendants – bring in people to help them run their enterprises.

In his contribution to the 1992 conference, Mahmood Mamdani – expelled himself in 1972 – underlined the heterogeneity of the Ugandan Asian population, and distinguished three groups within it after the expulsion. One was the tiny group who stayed after the expulsion: excluded from the patronage they had previously enjoyed, they pursued wealth through investment – sometimes successfully. The second group was the majority who made a home in their new countries of settlement. They had been salaried workers (mainly civil servants and teachers), professionals or petty traders. They had had limited assets in Uganda, for which they sought compensation rather than restitution. A third group was the fifty or so families who had owned substantial industrial, commercial and residential property, and who sought restitution of these assets.

Mamdani’s point was that it was this latter group with whom the ‘Ugandan Asians’ were identified, to the detriment of the less well-endowed majority. Twenty years on from these observations, more have returned but divisions essentially remain. The Asian population in Uganda now numbers several thousand, but there are more newcomers from South Asia than returnees from the diaspora created by the expulsion of 1972. The newcomers do not always see eye to eye with the local population; the returnees keep a foot in the UK or other diaspora locations.

Personal stories in a bigger history

I have got to know one Ugandan Asian family – originally from Goa – quite well.  The extended family comprised eight siblings dispersed after the expulsion to the UK, Sweden and other places, like many other such families. Their father had come to Uganda with the British army in the late nineteenth century, later running bakery, tailoring and other businesses. His eight children were born and schooled in Uganda and Goa, reflecting the continued connection with Goan roots. Two of the brothers are now in their eighties. One was among the handful (maybe a hundred or so) who stayed and subsequently became a successful businessman: now semi-retired, he has brought in relatives to help him run his businesses. The other, a civil servant in Uganda, came to the UK with the 29,000 or so other arrivals in 1972. Having weathered some tough times, he found his niche socially: for nearly twenty years he ran an allotment site, which now in microcosm reflects Britain’s recent migration history – recent arrivals cultivating plots include Zimbabweans, Poles, Lithuanians and Nepalis.

There are some simple lessons from these personal and larger histories.  Not least among the lessons is that, as well as harming those kicked out, expulsion is detrimental to those doing the expelling – Uganda went further downhill after the expulsion as parts of the economy were hit by the Asians’ departure.  Another lesson is that, given the right conditions and will, people suddenly uprooted can be incorporated into a new society and help it to thrive. One obvious question is whether this would be possible in Britain today.

In the bigger picture, the Ugandan Asians today constitute one of the many diasporas that have emerged from conflict and turmoil over the last half century, sometimes able to turn misfortune to advantage through their networks spreading across the globe and reaching back to the place that once cast them out.

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