New book by Vali I V Jamal on Ugandan Asians (forthcoming August 2009)

The full title is
Ugandan Asians: Then and Now, Here and There, We Contributed, We Contribute
Being a collaborative effort to thank President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for welcoming us back to Uganda and for his untiring efforts to grow the economy
To Pierre Elliott Trudeau for giving us shelter
And to Edward Heath for honouring an historic pledge.
We Contributed, We Contribute


In author’s own words:

It’s like the “autobiography” of our expulsion from Uganda, in 1972, of our life until then and our life in the two major diaspora countries. The expulsion was our WWYW (where were you when) moment, our place in history. We do get a mention in most history books but just a paragraph. I think we deserve more – like this 400 pages/200,000 words book.

It uncovers lots of new facts. Around 80 people never left Uganda for even a day, braving daily phone-in threats of rustication to Karamoja (one got to replying “do it mara moja,” Swahili for straightaway). They were witnesses to mass car auctions where the abandoned cars were sold off to the highest bidder and prices never went beyond three-figures US dollars. They watched the chaotic process of distributing the shops (their own even!). Almost with the fall of Amin, people started trickling in to “look up how things were.” On the diaspora side care is taken to acknowledge the early migrants to Canada and the 100 or so people in the UK in 1957 that the Aga Khan spoke about at his Golden Jubilee banquet in London. Some of their stories are there even. The 3Gs write about their ancestors and their own childhood in the 1940s and 1950s, when almost three-quarters of the Asian population lived within a mile-circle of the Museum Hill. The Canadian refugee mission of 1972 is summarised, based on the diary of the chief of the mission, including how the office was furnished in a record five days. Almost a first are also accounts of the British and Israeli role in Amin’s coup and the often-outrageous telegrams he wrote to world leaders. Towards the end is a light-hearted “socio-economic history” of East African Asians on how our cooking and dressing up changed. There’s a movie going on My Big Fat Desi Wedding, so it’s an entertaining book – otherwise why bother? Long, 400 pages, meant to be read slowly. Those 50 and above will shed a few tears at places. The younger generation will learn why their grampa keeps talking about “Wobulenzi” in every sentence. They will learn how in Gujarati almost all the numbers are distinct upto 100. They may even learn not to mispronounce the various Ns that we substitute for four different Gujarati consonants.

It should be out in “six months time” – about September, Inshallah. I should hasten to add that it’s pan-Asian, covering all the Asian communities in Uganda. It even has a background on the paan!

Vali Jamal was the Senior Economist for the UN-International Labour Organization from 1976 to 2001. He is an original Ugandan Asian. He has a BA from Cambridge University and a PhD from Stanford. He contributes often in the Uganda media. He is currently based at Kampala, Uganda, and can be reached at for possible inputs into his book.

Book Content Page

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, its achievements and humanitarian works.

14 thoughts

  1. Vali, your book sounds the kind of stuff i wish to read. Have thought that one of the terrible consquences of the expulsion was the disruption of the literature that was emerging.

    If you read Peter Nazareth and Bahaduru Tejani you will know what I mean. Some thing very precious was lost and could not be recreated.

    I look forward to reading your work and possibly reviewing it, as a link to the lost treasure. john otim


  2. what happened to the compensation Amin payed to the Indian government and was funded by the arab league when asians where expelled. seems nobody wants to talk about it. does it mean people are compensated then they come back again and take what they where compensated. i hope history doesn’t repeat it’s self.


    1. Dear Adam, If there was a compensation Amin payed to the Indian government and was funded by the arab league, than to most of us that came to a foreign country without a bean, No Indian – Asian were given a cent. and when in our case, our forefathers property, was returned, we as a family opted to give it to our loyal workers – families in Busambatia. Amin was SKINT.
      What Uganda lost was this – FACT – We Mohindies TODAY are paying 5% GDP to the English tax payer,
      Do you actually fathom what it means.
      Considering that were only some 30,000 families, in a population of 65m we bloody good. USA, Canada, we are a force in the economy in what ever we touch.
      Take my example, I am today road mapping your African recovery and Support for Poverty Alleviation.
      I have spent my last 5 years, in helping my fellow African brothers – and I have never asked for a bean from Africa except my childhood memories, that i feel I am 1st an African than Indian.
      You can never be able to compensate the Asian and actually most actually THANK AMIN today.
      Let us unite, The world is saturated and Teach AFRICANS to Accept a HAND UP and Not a Hand Out..


  3. I have been waiting an eternity for a book about my family’s history in Uganda and congratulate you for your efforts. Very excited about this and so looking forward to reading it. I visited Jinja (my birthplace) with my parents around ten years ago and wrote an published article describing the emotional journey back for them. I found the whole experience very moving as they reminisced and shared the stories about their youth and family life in Uganda. What an extraordinary country and people.

    Shilpa Unalkat author of ‘Business Head, Spiritual Heart


    1. Dear Shipla,
      So sorry I didn’t get to this till now. I should be very happy to get the story of your family and yourself for my book – say 1000 words. The book should be out around the end of the year, but it’s gonna be good. Write to me at


  4. Your book is excellant and give lot of details about the ugandian asians. I am a ugandian asian (born in uganda) but unfortunely can not return as my uganda passport has expired and there is no uganda embassy in Pakistan. I wish there was any way in which I can return back…


    1. I cant image how it feels that you cant go back to Uganda but im a Uganda American I was born in Uganda lived there for ten year than moved to usa with my African American dad when I was ten. I always liked talking to Ugandan Asians maybe cuz my best friend and family were Ugandan Asian very cool people, we want to school together when we were like 5-10 before I moved. most people in Uganda cant tell that im multicultural until I start to speak. they always ask if im American and I say ya im American but im also Uganda im half and half I say. love both countries.


  5. I am actually sitting with him right now in Runda, Nairobi,Kenya, discussing tennis… his jogging and tennis is realy something to rave on about! His backhand is really mean! e ran five miles together.


    1. We played 10-10 cricket – how many runs can you score in 10 balls. He won. In his alamanc entry it says Farhan gets lots of waras in khane. While at his home I wrote 6 articles for serious magazines, so we are putting Ugandan Asians on the map. .


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