In 1972, the then President of the republic of Uganda, Idi Amin Dada expelled Israelis and Asians from Uganda in what he termed an Economic War. First, Amin got disillusioned with the Israelis because they refused to sell to him weapons that would have enabled him attack a neighboring country.
After the Israelis, Amin turned his fury onto the Asian community that consisted of people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Goa. By the time Amin expelled the Asians because ‘God had instructed him’, they numbered about 50,000.
In operationalising the expulsion which was to take effect after three months, Amin issued a Presidential Decree on 4th October, 1972 but deemed to have come into force on August, 9th 1972.
In this Decree, not only did Amin confirm the expulsion but ensured that the departing Asians moved out of the country without their wealth and that this wealth was to be given out to Ugandan citizens. It turned out however that these ‘Ugandan citizens’ were Nubians known not to be very authentic Ugandans and they were later to be baptized ‘mafutamingis’.
The Decree first and foremost cancelled all entry permits and certificates of residence held by Asians in Uganda.
Obsessed with his wish to handover properties/businesses owned by departed Asians to Ugandans, Amin decreed thus;
- No person (Asian) leaving Uganda shall transfer any immovable property, bus company, farm, including livestock, or business to any other person.
(b) Shall mortgage his property to any other person.
(c) That in case of a company, such persons were not to issue new shares, change salaries or terms of employment of staff including terminal benefits or appoint new directors or in any way vary the conditions and terms of service or remuneration payable to directors.
Amin also ordered that departing Asians holding Trading licenses or licenses to manufacture were to declare their assets/liabilities to the Minister of Trade indicating amongst others a notice in writing nominating a person to act as his Agent to sell his property or business.
However, the Agent was required to ensure that the property/business was well taken care of until such a time that it would be sold/transferred to a Ugandan citizen.
The Agent was not permitted to make a direct sale of the property/business to any other person, rent out the property, convey by way of gift to any person nor acquire the property or carry on the business himself.
In other words, the decree ensured that the Agent would commit an offence if he acted in a manner that frustrated the declared government policy at the time of transferring departed Asians’ property/businesses to Ugandan citizens.
The Decree also ordered that unless the applicant to own property/business was government, the Minister of Trade was to advertise the property/business to be sold. And that in cases where interested buyers were more than two, the Minister was to refer the applicants to an advising committee setup by himself.
To ensure that the Decree was followed to the letter, Amin ordered thus;
“Any person who fails to comply with any provisions of this decree commits an offence and shall be liable to a fine of Shs50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both.”
Adding that; “Where a company is guilty of an offence under this decree, every director of that company shall be guilty of that same offence and shall be liable to a fine of Shs50,000, imprisonment not exceeding two years or both.
And finally to ensure that Agents appointed by departing Asians do not manipulate ownership of property/businesses, Amin decreed that where an Agent leaves Uganda for good, stays out of the country for a period exceeding three months or is incapacitated to perform the duties of an Agent, the Minister of Trade was to appoint a trustee to perform the duties of the Agent.
With that decree, Amin created a new class of mafutamingis who were however ignorant thus plunging Uganda into its worst economic turmoil to date.