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   Inside Out - West: Monday 6th January, 2003


Ugandan Asian ladies
REFLECTION | Diwali falls on the anniversary of the exodus

When Idi Amin expelled the Asians out of Uganda many swapped palatial homes, servants and the hot African sun for the drafty wooden chalets of a disused holiday camp on the Somerset coast.

Thirty years ago, Idi Amin, the President of Uganda gave Asians 90 days to leave the country. Amin was losing control over his country and decided the best way to recover was to expel the Asians in a bold move.

What most Ugandan Asians and the British Government thought was another empty threat turned out to be extremely serious.

Most of the Ugandan Asians had British passports and were compelled to go there, rather than India.


Ugandan Asians leaving the plane in England
They arrived in Britain with £50 and very few possessions

They lost their homes, their businesses and all but a handful of possessions. One man told the BBC then that he didn't know if he would survive the West Country winter. But survive they did, and much more than that.

The Ugandan Asians now make up one of the most successful and prosperous immigrant communities in Britain. We join them as they celebrate their New Year at a temple in Bristol.

Many of the Ugandan Asians are Hindu and this year the celebration of Diwali, the festival of light and New Year, coincides with anniversary of the exodus.

Celebration and reflection

The temple was founded by a teacher, Mr Joshi, and a group of Ugandan Asians living in Bristol. Now in a more multicultural Bristol, those coming to attend Diwali are not only from Uganda, yet the strong links within that community are still there.

Ugandans arriving at a camp
Many Ugandan Asians were temporarily housed in disused holiday camps

Mrs Joshi, the widow of the founder has come with her daughter to worship and reflect in the temple her husband established.

When her family first came to England, her husband and son were placed in a camp at Donniford in Somerset, before making Bristol their permanent home.

Abdul Ismail also took a day trip to Bristol with his family and chose it above anywhere else. His father had the additional difficulty of a large family to support, eight mouths to feed.


After running a large and successful business in Uganda, his father refused to compromise his standards. Instead of going into a menial job, he set up a small shop selling ethnic foods and hot snacks.

Ugandan Asian girl
Bristol's Ugandan Asian community are looking to the future

Thirty years later the shop is busy selling Diwali sweets, having expanded ten-fold in size.

The enduring characteristic of the Ugandan Asian community is their astute business sense coupled with a willingness to work extremely hard, making them the most successful immigrant group in Britain.

This however, has been borne out of times of immense pain and sadness, with many Ugandan Asians preferring not to dwell on the past, but look forward to theirs and their children's’ future.



See also ...

Ugandan Asians living in Devon
Ugandan Asians: 30 years in Britain

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