Following the killing of an Indian by a mob in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, a delegation led by Ugandan Minister of Internal Affairs Ruhakana Rugunda is touring India to provide assurance that Uganda is safe for Indians and Indian investment. "We want to set the record straight and rebuild goodwill between our two countries," Rugunda told reporters on Friday.
According to media reports, a mob protesting a move by the Indian-owned Mehta Group to expand its sugar estates by cutting a rain forest had killed an Indian man and attacked a temple. Rugunda said the mob had turned violent only after two Indians in a pickup truck had run down two of the protestors and fled from the scene, thereby inciting the mob.
The April 12 incident had evoked memories of the expulsion of 50,000 Indians by Idi Amin starting 1972. Until then, South Asians had been the largest non-indigenous ethnic community in Uganda, engaging in the trade, industry and services sectors. Today there are about 17,000 South Asians in Uganda, mostly Indians, although the community wields much economic weight. The top five industrial houses, top five hotels and top three banks are owned by persons of Indian origin.
Members of the delegation, comprising representatives from government, industry and people of Indian origin, were at pains to stress that it was not a pre-planned, xenophobic attack but was a stray incident. The delegation is scheduled to visit the family of the victim, Deval Rawal, in Gujarat. A $32,000 fund has been set up to provide for the family.
Earlier in the day, while addressing a business gathering, Rugunda stressed that the government is determined to ensure that Indian investment is safe. "Uganda can be your gateway to North and East African," Rugunda told businesspersons, adding that Uganda offers single-window clearance for investment projects.
With the Ugandan economy growing at five per cent, the country is keen to tap Indian investment, especially in its power and infrastructure sectors. This visit is aimed at assuring potential Indian investors that Uganda is a safe investment destination while smoothing the ruffled feathers of Uganda's Indian population.