Bharat Ghelani , Businessman Ruparelia with Participants of Uganda Reunion 2022
Fifty years ago, brutal dictator Idi Amin announced his intention to expel Uganda’s thriving community of British South Asians. They were given 90 days to leave or be rounded up in concentration camps. More than 27,000 ethnic Indian and Pakistani holders of UK passports made their way to Britain, which reluctantly took in its former colonial subjects.
Many of them went to the English Midlands city of Leicester, and many arrived penniless after Idi Amin expropriated their wealth in a purported drive to give “Uganda back to ethnic Ugandans”.
But when President Yoweri Museveni seized power in 1986, he encouraged the exiles to return.
Since their return to the country in the 1980s and 1990s, Asians from the Indian subcontinent have once again become a pillar of the country’s economy.
To mark this momentous occasion, Bharat Ghelani led a team to organize and plan a gathering in Uganda at Speke Resort Munyonyo for those who were interested to visit their birthplace and those who wished to extend their stay to visit Kenya or Tanzania, additional tours were made available through their travel partners
Bharat Ghelani , with Participants of Uganda Reunion 2022
‘’This reunion has formed a poignant memory, where we were born, how we grew up, the schools we attended and the businesses we set-up with our families. A time to reflect on the expulsion from Uganda, the traumatic journey, new beginnings and life today, after leaving Uganda the future that we built, how remarkably successful the Ex-Ugandan Asians have become wherever they happened to settle in the world. Particularly in UK and Canada the Ugandan Asians are well respected for their business expertise, they have become extremely successful and still contribute enormously to the economies of their current countries of residence’’, said Bharat Ghelani.
The main aim was to promote tourism Uganda and as such many different tours of Uganda by guests were conducted through the week, it brought together a range of excursions and activities that made this a trip of a lifetime, giving everyone the opportunity to reunite with their old friends from across the globe.
Bharat Ghelani has also been working in the UK with a range of arts organizations, community groups and the media in planning celebrations in the UK as well as in Uganda.
‘’Words cannot express how delighted I personally feel, that we will all be here, together, smiling and catching up with each other after so long. It will be a feeling of sheer joy, seeing that spring has sprung and 50 years have passed so quickly since we left this beautiful country. Although distance separates us all that close, lifelong friendship bond remains stronger than ever. Seeing us all here together will bring back so many memories of all the years passed’’, added Bharat Ghelani.
Bharat Ghelani regrettably noted that there are many Ex-Ugandan Asians who were unable to attend the gathering due to various reasons and also the had lost many of their dear friends.
‘’I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all my fellow committee members, Ramesh Bharania from USA, Khalil Allahdin and Maurice Fernandes, both from Canada who have all worked tirelessly with me to organize, plan and execute this unique gathering. We do not stop enjoying because we are old; we grow old because we stop enjoying. You’ve got to have that dream and desire to continue in some capacity with the life that we all love so dearly, when you lose that passion to live, you physically die’’, he further noted on behalf of the Asians.
He revealed that it was time to celebrate and commit themselves to making positive changes, small and large, within themselves, within their families, society and thereby in the world they live in.
‘’Here, with us we will have many legends, both from overseas and locally who are willing to provide a platform for all the younger generation Ugandan Asians today to let everyone’s love and dedication, so that yesterday’s sentiment, today’s persistence, and tomorrow’s pursuit can be true. Friendship is a flower that exudes a warm fragrance and makes people feel the beauty of the world. Friendship is a drop of water that nourishes the thirst of the heart, and makes the body taste warm to the human world’’, he said.
Bharat Ghelani finally thanked the team at Munyonyo, working under the stewardship of Mr Sudhir Ruparelia, for giving him a free hand in his responsibility for the welfare and success of this prestigious event at this scrumptious Speke Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort.
Without their unswerving support, guidance and professionalism from the team at Munyonyo , Bharat said it would not have been possible to organize, plan and execute this event. He also expressed gratitude and enormous encouragement and support that he received from many local friends in Kampala.
‘’ Remember what we have all been through over the last 2 years, that agony, pain and a living nightmare that has been thrown upon us! If that hasn’t taught you the meaning of life, nothing else will ‘’, noted Bharat Ghelani, the Chief Planner and Organizer for Uganda Reunion 2022.
From running banks to farms to supermarkets to shopping malls, Ugandan Asians have regained their prominent role in the country’s economy, following their mass expulsion more than four decades ago.
About 50,000 Asians were forced to leave the country in 1972, on the orders of former military ruler Idi Amin.
After they were forced to leave Uganda, a large, prosperous community of Ugandan Asians found themselves scattered across the globe, many having left lost the businesses they had spent years working on.
In the years which followed, Uganda’s economy slumped. Manufacturing ceased and the most basic consumer products such as bathing and washing soap, bottled drinks and toothpaste had to be imported from Kenya. Shops also emptied quickly and soon, the high street of Kampala that used to sport jewellery and exuded class products, started displaying pancakes and local banana juice to keep a semblance of commerce. The city and upcountry urban areas were economically strangled and fell into slum conditions for two decades.
Despite making up less than 3% of the population, they are estimated to contribute up to 65% of Uganda’s tax revenues.
One of those who came back is today the country’s richest man, Sudhir Ruparelia. He spent time in Britain in the 1970s, where he says he worked a series of basic jobs before saving enough money to return to Uganda.