The ‘From East to West’ oral history project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Foundation and marks the 50th anniversary of the expulsion of the Ugandan Asian community and their dislocation, arrival and settlement into the United Kingdom.
The project is administered by Faith Matters, a not-for-profit organisation that was founded by Fiyaz Mughal OBE, who is of Ugandan Asian heritage and whose family were expelled by Amin in 1972. Mughal was two years old when he arrived in the U.K with his parents and his brother and the family were relocated to RAF Stradishall, a training camp for the Royal Air Force in Surrey.
Faith Matters was founded in 2005 and seeks to support social cohesion between communities through community education programmes. This has been one of the founding objectives of the organisation.
The project seeks to ensure that the lived experiences of those first arrivals in 1972 are captured and preserved for posterity, whilst also training subsequent generations of British Asians of Ugandan Asian heritage, so that they can continue to collect these precious experiences and stories.
The project also acknowledges that much of the social narrative around the Ugandan Asian community has been one of a financially successful community that has integrated well into the U.K. Whilst this is true, it overlooks the short, medium and long terms impacts of stress, anxiety, trauma and issues around identity and ‘place and space’ within the country that affected many members of the expulsion when they arrived in the U.K. The project consequently will focus upon the formative years of resettlement primarily those of 1972-74 in order to understand how Ugandan Asians adapted to live in Britain and dealt with issue such as racism, employment, housing and integration.
This project also actively encourages the involvement and participation of subsequent generations of British Asians of Ugandan heritage. By allowing the community itself to capture and collect the lived experiences of those who experienced the expulsion we ensure that the history is reflected and rooted in their perspectives. There is nothing more alarming than histories being written by those outside the communities themselves and thus being affected by prejudice and/or ignorance.
50 years ago, on the 4th of August 1972, Idi Amin, President of Uganda, decided that he would expel all Ugandan Asians from the country, many of whom had roots in the country dating back nearly a century.
He voiced this expulsion by suggesting that he was “giving Ugandan back to ethnic Ugandans”. He gave the Asian community ninety days to leave the country which at the time roughly numbered 80,000 people. While 23,000 members of the community had chosen to be naturalised as Ugandan citizens, though this was of no regard when Amin suggested that they were disloyal, committing economic malpractices and failing to integrate.
What would follow would be a violent chaotic period in which Ugandan Asians were forced to abandon their livelihoods in their home country and be uprooted within the space of a few months.
The project, which commenced work in April 2022, is based on four foundational blocks. These include:
- Collecting the oral history experiences of first generation arrivals from Uganda who were expelled by Amin in 1972. We will be interviewing individuals on a range of experiences from 1972-1974, with the two year period providing the opportunity for a range of personal and professional experiences to be collected.
- The project will also work with those who arrived in 1972 to collect the emotional and mental health impacts that the expulsion, dislocation, and settlement in the U.K. caused to those from the Ugandan Asian community. This will include working with people who may have endured traumatic incidents and experiences in the process of relocation to the U.K.
- Training second, third and fourth generation British Asians of Ugandan Asian heritage so that they can actively collect the experiences and stories of those who arrived in 1972.
- The development of a learning and teaching pack based on the project topic that will be distributed to schools and targeted at 14–16-year-olds; these learning packs can be used by teachers reflecting on topics such as migration, integration and citizenship.