Uganda – a case of ‘new’ imperialism

It is sad that a young Indian worker died in the recent popular protests against the sale of Mabira forest in Uganda to an Indian multinational, Mehta Group. The Indian government has also reacted and contacted the Ugandan government for ensuring the safety of the Indian community. However, it has nothing to say about the Mehta deal, as the Ugandan government and business themselves are fully behind it and are ready to secure Indian capitalist interests. The mainstream media in India and elsewhere is trying to equate the scenario with Idi Amin’s anti-Asian drive, which is a clear attempt to sideline the issue of Indian imperialism, how Indian businesses have usurped Ugandan resources. The Mehta deal is not only an environmental disaster, but would also destroy local farmers, by its monopoly. Obviously, the local resentment and growing competition within a saturated local labour market in the absence of an effective counter-hegemonic solidarity make immigrant workers an easy target, providing a pretext to defocus and delegitimise the genuine grievances and legitimise repression.

A report rightly captures some issues behind the Ugandan protests:

It is time Indian businesses stop exploiting native Ugandan people, imported workers from India and, Ugandan national resources

Arun Sen
Apr. 14, 2007

It is shame what the Indian businesses have done in Kenya and Uganda. They exploited native Ugandan people, imported workers from India and Ugandan national resources. The atrocities go beyond imagination. Two Indians were killed and a temple attacked by a mob in Kampala. The mob was protesting against the alleged cutting down of a protected rain forest by an Indian firm.

Business communities in India run these Indian firms. They bribe local Ugandan authorities to do anything they like. They care little about human rights and Ugandan national interests.

According to media reports, Indians in the Ugandan capital Kampala are still frightened and shaken after Thursday’s mob attack in which at least two Indians were killed and a Hindu temple attacked by a mob protesting the proposed expansion plan of an Indian sugar firm by cutting down a protected rainforest.

The mob attack was an act of terror. But what the Indian business community did in Uganda is equally deplorable. The Ugandan Government is responsible. They take bribes from the rich business community from India and let them exploit Ugandans and imported workers from India. If some one tries to protest the atrocities, the Indian businesses bribe the local authorities and put the whistle blower in jail. Many imported Indian workers from India were put in jail because they demanded humane treatment. At the end these imported workers go back to India losing all they had accumulated from savings in Uganda. They can get out of jail but lose their all savings. The mob was protesting at the move by the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (Scoul), part of the Indian-owned Mehta group, to expand its sugar estates by cutting the Mabira rain forest- one of Uganda’s last remaining patches of natural forest. It has been a nature reserve since 1932.

…The controversy began last year when the Ugandan government ordered a study into whether to cut down nearly a third of Mabira- one of Uganda’s last remaining patches of natural forest.

The government’s proposal had angered many in the country who alleged that the environmental costs of slashing the forest would far exceed the economic benefits of the plantation.

Until 1972, Asians constituted the largest non-indigenous ethnic group in Uganda. In that year, the Idi Amin regime expelled 50,000 Asians, who had been engaged in trade, industry, and various professions. In the years since Amin’s overthrow in 1979, Asians have slowly returned. They continued their atrocities against civilized norm of society after returning back to Uganda. The mob outbreak is sad and deplorable. It is time for Ugandans to take control over their own country.


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