With leaders of 54 African nations coming to New Delhi for the 3rd India–Africa summit, there is plenty of commentary about the age-old connections between the continent and the subcontinent. Indeed, the connections do go back centuries and there are Indians in Africa just as there are Africans in India.
But no age-old relationship comes without its low moments. Indians might still be living in large numbers across Africa, and have been a big part in the development particularly of South and East Africa, but they aren't always beloved.
Almost forty years ago, the brutal dictator of Uganda, General Idi Amin ordered the deportation of Indians – mostly Indian Gujaratis, who had been living in the country for over 100 years. Not just Uganda, Indians had been a regular target of resentment in many African countries including Kenya during that era.
Amin alleged that Indians don’t integrate with black community in Uganda and are the major sources of local economic exploitation. Indeed, Indians had come to dominate the banking and jewelry trade, positions that didn't endear them to the local population. In the aftermath of liberation from colonial overlords, these African nations continued to look at the Indian population as outsiders who didn't deserve to be there, prompting Kenya and Uganda to expel Indians.
During an interview with Associated Press in the 1970s, the reporter asks the General, “What would happen to these people (Indians) if they don’t go within the time limit?” He takes a pause and then says,” I think they will be sitting like they will be sitting on fire.”
Eventually more than 30,000 Indians had to leave the country, most going to the United Kingdom, after Amin gave them just 90 days to get out. Amin would eventually be overthrown in 1979, with the Indian expulsion paling in significance compared to the brutality that he unleashed on his own people.