What you need to know:
This month, 50 years ago, hundreds of Asians expelled by Idi Amin’s government flew out from Entebbe International Airport to seek new opportunities mainly in the United Kingdom and Canada. In this tenth instalment of our series marking the golden jubilee of the expulsion, Edgar R. Batte narrates how Naushad Ramjil hopes to return to Uganda after 50 years in the United Kingdom.
Naushad Ramji is a 62-year-old lawyer and author living in Leicestershire, United Kingdom. He was born in Soroti, eastern Uganda to Pyarali Juma Ramji and Nurbanu Ramji, who are both deceased.
Ramji was about 12 years old when then President Idi Amin expelled Asians from Uganda.
Nonetheless, he calls Uganda his cradle and has fond memories of his formative years, especially in the countryside town of Soroti.
Just before his family was expelled, Ramji recalls rifle-wielding soldiers raiding his neighbourhood in Land Rovers. He says the soldiers mocked and harassed Asians.
He fled Soroti alongside his uncle and recalls there were a number of roadblocks on their way.
“As a young boy, this was very frightening,” he recounts. It was tough to settle in Britain as he experienced a cultural shock and the biting winter.
“We could not return as not only had our citizenship been stripped by the then government, but our properties seized,” he recounts.
Mr Ramji’s family settled in Birmingham which had proper housing thanks to his father’s good job. The youngster was able to make friends as he discovered new places in their neighbourhood and beyond.
The streets offered a pristine image as he came to appreciate the excellent public transport system compared to the one in Soroti.
However, after many years away, Mr Ramji is nostalgic about the past and wants to return home.
“This is going to be emotional for me. I am looking forward to it immensely, especially my return to my birth town, Soroti,” he adds.
Although he has been away for 50 years, he continues to conjure images of Uganda in his mind—an idyllic place with breathtaking spots peppered with the perfect weather.
“I can see lots of changes, but I also picture the houses being the same and some places run down,” he says.
Ramji plans his return this year.
“I have longed to come back, visiting my place of birth is an exciting prospect and, to be honest, 50 years is a very long time indeed to wait for the moment.
“I feel sad at the same time to feel that we were thrown out of my country of birth and my parents too were both born in Uganda,” he says.
Ramji’s hopes that Uganda can one day espouse the progressive values of an egalitarian society.
“A world where there is equality, fairness, and justice. A world where people can be safe, secure from harm and live in relative freedom, free from oppression,” he explains.
His philosophical argument about life is to embrace everyday like it is a new beginning.
“We need to say ‘thank you to God/ Allah for granting us another day’”, he says.
Ramja is also keen about his health.
“Enjoy life, be kind and respectful to others and be charitable.” These are the virtues his mother instilled in him.
He applauds his mother for having played a pivotal role in his life. Ramja says: “From birth to adulthood, she was there with me, looking after me and helping me. When I was sad, she would be there. I miss her a lot.”
Ramji loves to reward himself by going on holiday with his family. He is also writing books, his latest being,The Price of Honour. The book narrates the heavy price a family pays for killing a close family member.
“The intent and message is clear: The practice of honour killing is abhorrent and needs to stop. Further, there is a need to recognise that women are not property but are human beings who have rights to live free from oppression,” the author explains, adding that he will travel to Uganda with some copies for sale.