Uganda woos Indian investors, says Indians safe


Support TwoCircles

New Delhi : Uganda is a perfectly peaceful country and wants Indian entrepreneurs to invest there, according to an Ugandan delegation currently on a visit to India.

The delegation, led by Uganda's Internal Affairs Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, sought to remove the idea that there is racial discrimination against Indians following the death of an Indian last month in a riot in Kampala.

Devang Rawal, hailing from Ahmedabad and working with a private firm in Uganda, was stoned to death April 12 by a mob that was protesting the move by The Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL), part of the Indian-owned Mehta group, to expand its sugar estates by clearing the Mabira rain forest – one of Uganda's last remaining patches of natural forest. It has been a nature reserve since 1932.

Two others, both Ugandans, were also killed in the riot.

"Apart from building further the already excellent ties between India and Uganda, we are also here to personally convey our condolences to the family of the victim (Rawal)," the minister said.

The Ugandan government has announced a compensation of 18 million Ugandan shillings ($10,000) to the family of Rawal.

Earlier in the day, the delegation called on Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi to convey a message of condolence from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Rawal's death.

"The delegation from Uganda called on me today and conveyed the message from the President of Uganda that their relations with India is perfectly alright," Ravi told IANS.

"There is no racial discrimination against Indians. What happened was indeed very unfortunate but among the three people killed by the mob, two were from Uganda itself while one was Indian. So the delegation came here to give the Indian government a re-assurance that what had happened was the work of a few bad elements of the society," he said.

Speaking at an interactive session for potential investors organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here Friday, Rugunda said, "We are happy that the Asian community in Uganda is doing very good."

"Ugandans of Asian origin (mostly Indians) are playing a vital role in the economy… They are the single most voracious investors there," he said.

Stating that Uganda's growth rate has been around the 6 percent mark in past several years and inflation controlled at 7 percent, he said, "Come to Uganda, you benefit, we benefit. Your investments will create jobs for us."

He said that investing in Uganda would also mean access to the whole of east and central African market.

Stating that Rawal's death was a one-off incident, Sanjiv Patel of the Indian Association of Uganda, who is also a member of the delegation, said that Uganda has been peaceful for the past 20 years and all communities – Ugandans of Indian origin and indigenous Ugandans – have been living harmoniously.

"Ever since President (Yoweri) Museveni and his NRM (National Resistance Movement) came to power in 1986, Uganda has been completely peaceful. And Indians doing business there have been very successful," he said.

"Look at all the NRIs (non-resident Indians) who have come and flourished in Uganda," Patel, a third generation Ugandan of Indian origin, said.

Calling upon investors not to be swayed by the Rawal incident, he said, "We are there to help you. You don't have to be worried. The Indian Association is always there."

Sanjay Tanna, an Ugandan of Indian origin who is also a member of parliament in that country, said that the east African country has changed drastically for the better since the NRM government came to power.

"And Ugandans are the most generous people in the whole of Africa. Indigenous Ugandans are happy when Asians do well, because they also benefit. Look at me. I have been elected from an area that has primarily indigenous Ugandan people," he said.

Asians, mostly Indians, have been the most affected lot in the volatile politics of Uganda prior to Museveni's ascent to power.

During Idi Amin's despotic rule in the seventies, 75,000 Asians were expelled from that country without being allowed to take their assets with them.

After Idi Amin's rule, the country has seen wars with neighbouring countries and military coups.

Today, there are around 17,000 Indians and most of them are NRIs who had gone there for work or business. Ugandans of Indian origin number only around 2,500.