At Gunpoint with 90 Days to Leave the Country: my Grandad’s Story
Let’s go back to Uganda, 1972. My grandparents and their 3 children all lived a very comfortable life. My grandad had been living in Kampala, Uganda for 39 years and was utterly content and happy. He had a house, a flourishing business and a well-established family. They could never have foreseen what was about to happen.
On August 4th 1972, the President of Uganda, Idi Amin, announced that all Asians must leave Uganda within 90 days. And so, my Grandad, who had lived in Uganda for 39 years, had just 90 days to prepare himself and his family to leave their friends, business and home.
Naturally, the whole family was panicked. They had never imagined that something like this could ever happen. My Grandad made sure that his parents were sent to the UK as quickly as possible as it was becoming increasingly apparent that Uganda had become an extremely dangerous place for Asians to live in.
The Asian community faced struggle from the day the announcement was made. From that day on they were consistently discriminated against by the government and soldiers.
There is one particular night that will remain with my grandfather forever. It was the day before they left Uganda. My Grandad was preparing to say goodbye to the only place he had ever lived. Where he had been brought up. Where he had got married. Where his 3 children had been born. Where he had planned to raise his 3 children.
He felt things could not get any worse than this. President Amin had taken all his money, so he was entering a new country with no money and no job, unable to speak English, but with a family who needed providing for. But of course, things did get worse and my Grandad considers himself lucky to have come out alive.
My Grandad, Grandma, his brother and their children were all sitting in their house, discussing how they would get out of the country safely the following day. It was a well-known fact that since President Amin’s announcement, many Indians had gone missing and never returned. Suddenly, there was a firm knock on the door. My Grandad opened the door, and came face to face with a government soldier. Barging into their house, the solider demanded to see everyone’s passports.
He immediately singled out my Grandma and soon realised that she was not born in Uganda like the rest, but Kenya. He claimed that because she was not born in Uganda, he must take her away because she was here illegally. However, my Grandad responded quickly and managed to convince the soldier to take him instead.
The soldier had arrived on foot, and so demanded that my Grandad drive them to the police station. He threatened to shoot my grandad if he did not obey his every word. Soon after my Grandad began to drive them, the soldier stated that, instead of the local police station, he wanted to travel to Mikundu prison. My Grandad had never known of anyone to have ever returned from this prison.
As they were driving to the prison, the soldier suddenly told my Grandad to stop the car. The soldier went away for about a minute and then returned to the car. My Grandad never asked where he went. At this point, an African man greeted my Grandad as he passed by, and was met with a slap on the cheek by the soldier, outraged that he had greeted an Asian.
The soldier then asked my Grandad how much money he had. My Grandad simply got out his wallet and handed it over to the officer, knowing he had to comply, or that he would be dead within a matter of seconds. However, deciding that this was not enough, the soldier forced my Grandad to drive back to his home, to collect all the money he had in his possession.
When they reached the house, my Grandad was met by his wife and three children. They were all crying. Luckily, the soldier did not come into the house; he simply took the money that my Grandad gave to him and left.
Once my Grandad and his family finally arrived in England, daily life remained a struggle. They lived with my grandmother’s brothers for two months before getting their own accommodation. However, because of my grandparents’ determination and love for their family, they were able to provide a good education, a home, and food every day for their three children. Now, because of this, my dad and two aunties have grown up to be successful in their lives, meaning that I and my cousins have all led happy lives, never exposed to the same atrocities as my grandfather.
The reason that Idi Amin kicked the Asians out was because they controlled Uganda’s economy. However, there is no excuse for the way Idi Amin and the government treated innocent and humble people like my grandparents.
I feel extremely proud to say my Grandad provided everything his family needed through hard work. He worked up until he was 77 years old and provided us with everything we could have ever wanted. His three children have been successful in their own right, as has he. He now spends his time with his family, including his seven grandchildren. Though my Grandad has had a tough journey, through commitment and hard work he achieved everything and so much more. My Grandad is and always will be my biggest inspiration.