Country Listing

Uganda Table of Contents



The 1969 census enumerated about 70,000 people of Indian or Pakistani descent--generally referred to as Asians in Uganda. They were officially considered foreigners despite the fact that more than one-half of Uganda's Asians were born in Uganda. Many of their forebears had arrived in Uganda by way of trade networks centered on the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar (united with Tanganyika in 1964 to form Tanzania), which brought iron, cotton, and other products from India even before the nineteenth century. In the late nineteenth century, many indentured laborers from India remained in Uganda after their service ended, but the government refused to sell them land, and most became traders. Wealthy Baganda traders were almost eliminated as their earliest rivals when the Buganda Agreement of 1900 made land ownership more lucrative than commerce for most Baganda. Indians gained control of retail and wholesale trade, cotton ginning, coffee and sugar processing, and other segments of commerce. After independence, and especially when the Obote government threatened to nationalize many industries in 1969, Asians exported much of their wealth and were accused of large-scale graft and tax evasion. President Amin deported about 70,000 Asians in 1972, and only a few returned to Uganda in the 1980s to claim compensation for their expropriated land, buildings, factories, and estates. In 1989 the Asian population in Uganda was estimated to be about 10,000.

Data as of December 1990