A Reunion and Reflection on Uganda’s Past and Present

Busiinge Aggrey. PHOTO/COURTESY

Fifty years have passed since the dark days of Idi Amin’s expulsion of Asians from Uganda, and amidst the shadows of history, a remarkable story of reconnection and reflection has emerged. Last week, Mr. Unni Kesavan, who, as a 10-year-old, witnessed the upheaval caused by Amin’s directive, made a poignant return to the land that had once been his home. This return serves as a poignant reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the power of reconciliation.

The year 1972 is etched in Kesavan’s memory. His family’s diplomatic status granted them protection from the expulsion, yet the impact on the Asian community and the country as a whole was profound. The expulsion disrupted the education system, as many teachers, particularly those in esteemed institutions, were of Asian descent. It led to a widespread exodus of people who had contributed to the social, economic, and cultural fabric of Uganda. The expulsion had ripple effects that reached far beyond its immediate aftermath.

Kampala, the city of Kesavan’s childhood, was once a well-organized and thriving metropolis. He recalls a time when trash collection was systematic, government houses were well-maintained, and a functional bus system weaved through the streets. The contrast between then and now is stark. But amidst this nostalgia, Kesavan found reason for optimism in Uganda’s new development.

Uganda’s history is marked by its ability to heal and rebuild. The fact that Kesavan can return to a country that saw his departure half a century ago and find progress is testament to this nation’s resilience. He expressed his willingness to contribute further, offering his expertise in corporate governance to enhance Uganda’s development. This gesture signifies not just an individual’s desire to give back, but a recognition of Uganda’s potential and the importance of global diaspora engagement.

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However, this story’s most heartwarming chapter is the reunion of two childhood friends, Kesavan and Joseph Mugamba. LinkedIn, a platform designed for professional networking, became a bridge across time and continents. It’s a testament to the ways technology can transcend borders, sparking connections that were once deemed lost forever. Their emotional reunion underscores the power of shared experiences and the deep bonds that transcend time and distance.

As Kesavan and Mugamba revisited their former school, East Kololo Primary, they symbolized the power of remembrance and the importance of acknowledging one’s past. Uganda’s history, though often painful, remains an integral part of its identity. Through stories like Kesavan’s, we are reminded that facing history, even its most difficult aspects, is essential for progress.

Uganda’s present and future are intertwined with its past. Reconciling with its history, engaging with its global diaspora, and fostering an environment that welcomes diversity and learning are crucial steps in shaping the nation’s trajectory. Kesavan’s journey and his willingness to contribute provide a blueprint for healing, growth, and unity.

The return of Mr. Unni Kesavan to Uganda serves as more than just a personal story—it is a beacon of hope, a testament to the human spirit’s resilience, and a call to build a better future by acknowledging and learning from the past.

Busiinge Aggrey is a Ugandan journalist, researcher, filmmaker and founder at The Black Examiner. Email: busiinge@abjinemedia.africa

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