Uganda and Leicester

On 13 September 2012, Sundip Meghani, the Labour and Co-operative Councillor for Beaumont Leys, brought a motion before the Leicester City Council to raise awareness of the unique contribution made by Ugandan Asians to Leicester’s history. As the son and grandson of Ugandan Asian immigrants who fled to Leicester from Idi Amin in 1972, Councillor Meghani observed that “the entire Asian population of Uganda was expelled by the dictator Idi Amin.”

He continued: “They were given 90 days to leave the country or face being put into concentration camps. Some 80,000 men, women and children were stripped of all their possessions and forced to leave the only home they had ever known.” Those holding British passports soon made their way to the UK, with around 10,000 of the 25,000 British passport holders subsequently settling in Leicester. (As a result of these changes the British National Party decided to move their national headquarters to Leicester.)

Like all the celebratory coverage surrounding Leicester Labour Councils unwilling acceptance of these political refugees, no mention is made of the key role played by the British government in bringing the dictator Idi Amin to power. An issue which is well covered in Mark Curtis’ excellent book Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses (Vintage, 2004); a relevant extract of which can be found online here, see “The rise of Idi Amin in Uganda, 1971-72.”

This is a tragic history that Councillor Meghani should familiarize himself with. But unfortunately little appears to be have been learnt, and the same underhand political manipulations continue to undermine the life chances of Ugandan citizens, not to mention British citizens. Take for example the phenomena of systematic human rights abuser G4S being invited into Leicester schools to run their care-taking services; like for example at Soar Valley College in Beaumont Leys, whose board of governors includes Councillor Meghani.

If that wasn’t bad enough G4S also profits from the ongoing expropriation of natural resources from Uganda. Thus Clare Spottiswoode CBE who has been a board member of G4S since 2010, served until recently as a board member of Tullow Oil plc (2002-11), a company which boasts of making “significant progress” in helping Uganda become a “major oil producing country.” None too surprisingly G4S provides the security services for Tullow Oil in Uganda (run under the watchful eye of one Otema Patrick).

Here the current president of Tullow Oil Uganda is the Honourable Elly Karuhanga, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda, and current chairman of the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum. He is a former advisor to the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and is also a board member of the leading uranium exploration and development companyh IBI Corporation.

IBI of course does not limit itself to uranium mining and has a keen interest in gold mines some of which are run by Paul Sherwin at their affiliate company, Grey Crown Resources. Mr. Sherwin perhaps being best-known for his role as a TV commentator for the Tour de France, but not so well-known for recently serving as the chairman of the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum. Although that said Mr. Sherwin does like to mix his two interests, and has managed to get his cycling friends,like Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, to invest in Ugandan gold mines.

Two other interesting current Tullow Oil board members worth highlighting here include David Williams and Steven McTiernan. Mr. Williams because he serves alongside Anglo American chairman Sir John Parker on the board of directors of Dubai Ports World: which is owned by the Dubai monarchies investment company Dubai World Group, of which warehouse developer Gazeley is part of — Gazeley being the co-owner of Leicester’s very own Magna Park. And Mr. McTiernan because he is also a board member of First Quantum Minerals where, between 2010 and 2011, he served alongside Rupert Pennant-Rea, a man who is a board member of one of the world’s largest producers of gold, Gold Fields Ltd.

Note: on a point of resistance to the exploitative practices of such ruling class individuals, the strike committee of mining leaders in South Africa recently passed “resolutions, which  included a decision to intensify strikes in the platinum sector, extend strikes to the gold sector and beyond, occupy shafts, and to call for a national general strike.” Thus extending strikes from workers oppressors like Lonmin and Anglo American to further companies like Gold Fields.

In terms of finding solutions to some of the problems outlined in this article, Councillor Meghani would do well to recognize that the Labour Party is no longer committed to socialism (clause 4 is long gone) and that they suspend councilors who take a principled stand against cuts. But if he is serious about helping the people of Leicester he will begin by kicking G4S out of our schools, and then help us in building a mass movement to resist all the cuts being imposed upon us. While at a push he may commit himself to the former, the latter of course will be up to the rest of us. Lets get organized like the workers in South Africa and say no to capitalism and yes to socialism.

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