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Ugandans should Reject Xenophobia against Indians, Chinese

Ofwono Opondo

Oct. 25, 16  
These days, with bogus and parochial nationalism being spewed and hyped mainly by opposition elements, social cynics, and I dare say, floundering business people, it is increasingly becoming fashionable to blame foreigners especially Indians and Chinese for Uganda’s perceived woes. If allowed to germinate, spread and take root, this xenophobia is a gathering, and present danger, first to Uganda and Ugandans, and the region. As part of the global community of civilized nations, we must expose, isolate and defeat at the earliest those fanning unjustified hate against foreigners and immigrants.
While the patriotic lap dogs may pretend to target foreigners and illegal immigrants engaged in unlawful economic activities which they claim should otherwise be reserved for citizens, once this storm catches fire, no one can tell who the next target will be. For instance, during the last election campaigns it was evident that the Forum for Democratic (FDC) presidential candidate Kizza Besigye claimed that his political plank was to ‘reclaim our country and return to the people,’ implying that some hidden hands were ruling Uganda and unfairly siphoning off resources. To-date, his misguided followers continue to issue unqualified threats against their local rivals especially NRM supporters that they will seize their property and businesses once Besigye comes to power.
Xenophobia is often the undue fear of strangers especially for possible loss of identity and rights, and suspicion of their activities, and launching aggression in the desire to eliminate their presence.  It is common these days to hear noises from committees of parliament, MPs purporting to ‘protect’ Ugandans, and ‘promoting indigenous’ businesses unfairly castigating Chinese and Indians for engaging in the so-called ‘petty trade’ which was hitherto idle and untapped until the foreigners came.  It is necessary to ask these ‘wonderful’ MPs where the indigenous Ugandans were not to see that from our millet, cassava and bananas, Kabalagala (pancakes) or delicious ground-nuts could be made and packed for the supermarket shelves!  
And, I want to presume that all our MPs are indeed Ugandan citizens, in which case, the question then arises whether Ugandans are proud of and satisfied with the performance of their politicians just because they are fellow citizens. Yet, the same MPs like travelling to outside countries and spending our meager dollars earned from a narrow tax base. So, whose is more of a problem to Uganda, the Chinese who brings in their money and entrepreneurship or the Ugandan MP who squanders our hard earned foreign currency!
It is, necessary to remember that in Uganda, xenophobic false excuses were used in the past under the guise of promoting, protecting and defending tribal, ethnic and religious identities and interests to spread sectarianism that has caused so much division, hatred, and in some instances physical harm that Uganda is just beginning to recover from. In 1972, Idi Amin, robbed Indians of their well-stocked industries, warehouses, and shops which he then handed over to his Ugandan cronies who ran them down to squalor.  
In Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan tribal phobia has led to externalisation of refugees, genocide, indiscriminate and systematic killings. Misplaced attacks against Indian and Chinese business persons, who are here in accordance with Ugandan laws, and who have leased land or other properties by Ugandans is unhelpful to our international image as a country conducive for the much needed foreign investors, capital, entrepreneurship, knowledge and skills and transfer.
While these false accusations go on, it is important to state that in many instances, it is the Ugandans who import sub-standard products from China and India because of bad and un-ethical business behaviour, and therefore using Asians as scapegoat won’t grow Uganda’s economy.
Complaints that Chinese and Indians are mining and sell sand and stones, are not genuine, because according to Uganda laws, it is citizens who own land, and therefore the ones who lease to foreigners who process sand or stones into semi-finished products that fetch higher values. To be convinced that these Chinese and Indian entrepreneurs are bad or dangerous to Uganda, it would be prudent for the lap dogs to point out which indigenous Ugandan business the ‘scoundrel’ Asians unfairly took over or robbed. In fact, it is the Ugandans who invite Asians to purchase raw crops from the gardens!
The implementation of Uganda’s laws is in our hands, and we shouldn’t use our internal weaknesses to shift blame to foreigners in effort to side step responsibilities. We should also recall that in South Africa between 1995 and 2015, there have been document series of xenophobic attacks targeting Black immigrant workers, mostly Zimbabweans. South Africans had conveniently forgotten their own years as fugitives in other African countries including Zimbabwe.
During those attacks, lives were lost, thousands displaced, and homes, properties, and businesses of foreign nationals were destroyed or looted by black South African gangs. In fact, they were trying re-enacting behaviours similar to the Immigrant’s Regulation Act, 1913 intended to keep Indians as “undesirables” out of trade in South Africa or The Township Franchise Ordinance of 1924 passed to deprive Indians of municipal franchise. In the on-going false euphoria in Uganda, who knows the next target of the perceived ‘un-desirables’ encroaching  on resources, for instance looking at the prevailing rancor over land rights!