Category: Uganda

Meeting on Uganda in the House of Lords

Lord Sheikh hosted a meeting on behalf of the Conservative Foreign and Commonwealth Council to talk on the Pearl of Africa (Uganda).

The meeting was very well attended. Parliamentarians including Pauline Latham MP, Lord Popat and various members of the community attended. His Excellency Mr Julius Peter Moto, High Commissioner of the Republic of Uganda, was Chief Guest at the meeting and spoke at the event.

The meeting sought to talk about and promote the good stories of Uganda.

Lord Sheikh spoke on his own personal relationship with Uganda, the present environment in Uganda, the UK’s historical and current relationship with Uganda as well as trade between the UK and Uganda.

The below pictures show Lord Sheikh presenting His Excellency Mr Julius Peter Moto, High Commissioner of the Republic of Uganda, on behalf of the Council.


Ugandan Asians

My Lords, I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to speak in this debate, and I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Popat for calling it and for his excellent speech. That is not least because members of my family were among the 28,000 Ugandan Asians who came to the United Kingdom in the 1970s. Thus, the personal resonance of this subject for me holds no bounds.

I also believe that this 40th anniversary provides us with an opportunity properly to reflect on just how significant a part this movement has played in the cultural and social development of the UK, and how much better off we all are because of it. Ultimately, the UK gave asylum to around half of those exiled from Uganda, including many from a cross-section of different religions. Such a considerable and complex movement of people brings with it personal stories of triumph and turmoil.

My father originally came to Uganda in the 1920s and quickly carved out a name for himself in a wide range of industries including cotton, hides and skins, coffee and property. He was president of the Indian association in our home town for more than 30 years and represented all the communities of Asian origin. He also helped to pioneer the Ugandan education system, benefiting thousands of children. He can be described as a man of vision, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. He died in the 1960s, before my family were expelled the following decade, but I had already learnt much that has inspired me to do well in this country.

I brought that hunger and enthusiasm with me when I came to this country. This culture is typical of many other Asians who came here from Uganda. Although the ancestors many of the Indian families were originally brought over in the 19th century to help build the railway system, they had since become successful in businesses and professions. The community prospered in every walk of life. By the 1970s, they were the backbone of Ugandan economy. There was peace and harmony between people of various religions and racial origins in Uganda. When the Asians were expelled, their properties, businesses and almost everything else was taken from them by Idi Amin and his Government. As such, they arrived on British shores completely penniless. General Amin took everything from us except our knowledge and what we had in our heads.

I think that I speak for most, if not all, of those who came to this country during this time when I express my gratitude for Prime Minister Edward Heath’s honourable decision to allow those of us with British passports to settle here. Others went to places such as Canada, Australia and Europe, but I am grateful that my family was able to come and enjoy the opportunities that the UK provided to us and thousands of others. Upon their arrival, many Ugandan Asians were able to open corner shops and other small family businesses that proved to be highly successful in serving the needs of local communities. Many of them also took jobs in various sectors. This provided them with a solid base on which to raise their families and rebuild their lives.

The children of those families have since grown up and been educated here in the UK, serving only to advance their family lines through the high quality of learning that we so celebrate in this country. While some have taken over the family corner shop or followed in their mother’s or father’s footsteps, others have moved into different professions that in many cases were not accessible to their parents.

Today, the sons and daughters of Ugandan Asians are visible in every walk of life, from medicine to banking and from writing to manufacturing. They make valuable contributions to our workforce, pay their taxes and help us to compete on the international stage. It should also be noted that the crime rate among this community is very low. Their influence can even be felt in this very House; I know that my colleagues, the noble Lord, Lord Popat, and the noble Baroness, Lady Vadera, share my proud heritage, as do Shailesh Vara and Priti Patel in the House of Commons.

Perhaps the most notable example of where Ugandan Asians have thrived as a community is in Leicester and in the London Borough of Harrow, where, despite much resistance at the time, a number of the immigrants chose to settle. In the short term they helped to breathe new life into the economy of these areas, mainly through regenerating the manufacturing base and establishing new businesses.

There are many specific examples of individuals and families who have thrived and become successful in their own right upon coming to the United Kingdom. I should like to mention the inspirational example of a good friend of mine, Mr Jaffer Kapasi, who was one of those who moved to Leicester in 1972. He arrived in the United Kingdom at the age of 22 with nothing. After university, he trained as an accountant and, several years later, set up his own business. He chaired a housing association for elderly and vulnerable people in the Midlands. When he took over the chairmanship in 1992, the association had 280 homes, and when he stepped down last year it had 1,900. He was awarded an OBE in 1997 for services to business in Leicestershire. This year, the Meiji University in Tokyo published his life story and I highly recommend that noble Lords read it.

The contributions of Ugandan Asians to the United Kingdom can be acknowledged on many levels and in many circles-economic, cultural, social and professional. It is a testament to how homogeneous a community they are that they have integrated so well into the British way of life. Wherever they have gone, they have earned respect, maintained a strong work ethic and forged successful relationships with other communities.

This is a land of opportunity and tolerance, and we have always found the environment highly conducive to success. These qualities have allowed the Ugandan Asian community to flourish and, in turn, its members have served only to enrich our society further. I believe that this anniversary should remind us of the opportunities that there have been for members of that community to live well and flourish.

Uganda’s loss truly has been Britain’s gain. The Asian community that came here and its future generations will, I believe, be good British citizens and help in the advancement and well-being of this great nation. Thank you, Britain, for accepting us when we arrived here. You have certainly lived up to the name “Great Britain”.

Speech at Ugandan Convention UK

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.


Good afternoon.


My brief today is to speak about “business as well as leadership matters as an inspiration to Diasporas.”


I therefore would like to talk about my childhood, upbringing and my career in business and politics.


I will also talk about principles and ideas which I have followed which might give the audience food for thought and perhaps inspire other budding entrepreneurs.


I will talk later on about the role of the Ugandan diaspora as we have with us today a number of persons who originate from Uganda and are living here in the United Kingdom.


I was born in Kenya and brought up in Uganda and although I have lived in the United Kingdom more years than the time I spent in Uganda, I do have a great deal of affection and love for Uganda.


I was brought up in a multi-racial community and my closest school friend was an African and we used to visit each other’s houses frequently. I learnt to speak several languages and also developed an understanding of different religions.


In view of my background I am very actively involved in interfaith dialogue and promote peace and harmony amongst various racial and religious groups.


My family was expelled from Uganda in 1972 and we came to this country penniless. General Amin took everything from us except our brain and we have worked very hard in this country.


I am today Chairman of four companies which include insurance organisations and property companies.


I started as a trainee with a major insurance company and obtained my professional qualifications at an early age. I was a visiting lecturer at universities and I have written frequently for professional magazines as well as insurance press.


I was the President of the Insurance Institute of Croydon and Regional Chairman of the British Insurance Brokers Association and in fact I was the first foreigner to hold these positions.


I have also held positions in other organisations and associations relating to insurance and financial services.


I have always believed that you need to become part of the establishment wherever you go and get involved in the professional or business organisation in our respective fields.


By doing so we can contribute to the advancement of our professional body and by achieving success one will indeed get recognised by our peers.


I always like to quote the saying of Francis Bacon who was in fact Lord Bacon. He was a philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer and author.


One of his most famous quotes is “I hold every man a debtor to his profession” and I would urge everyone to consider doing what I believe in and have undertaken.


Following the same principle as Francis Bacon I believe that every member of the diaspora is a debtor to their country of origin.


After I qualified I left the insurance company and started working for a broking organisation where I was appointed a manager and I ended up owning the company.


I made the company into a public limited company and elevated it to become Lloyd’s brokers.


The head office of the company is in Bromley and has offices in the City of London. The company under my guidance won or were highly commended on twelve major insurance awards in a period of three years which is a record and no other company has achieved this.


Over two years ago I sold this company and I have formed and am Chairman of four business organisations relating to insurances and properties.


People have often asked me how I have achieved success in business and I would like to share with you what I believe are the essential ingredients of a successful business leader?


In my view they can be summarised as follows:


Build a strong team

Be innovative

Look for new opportunities

Have a vision

Produce the right product which provides value for money and is appropriately priced

Have an active marketing strategy

Always place a great deal of importance on customer care and ensure that the service standards are always high.


To be successful in business you also need to look at trends and think of making products and services which can meet a need and fulfil a desire in the future and you also need to be ahead of competition.


We have a saying in our office: “We lead, others follow.”


In my business life I have developed products which were market leaders and others tried to copy what I had done. We were indeed ahead of the competition.


In 2005 I decided to enter politics and became a member of the Conservative Party. Within a period of less than 18 months I was appointed a Peer by the Party.


I was in fact the first Muslim to be elevated to the House of Lords by the Conservative Party.


When I joined the Party I saw there were a number of opportunities and started doing things which had not been done before.


I was noticed by the leaders of the Party and in fact the grant of the Peerage was a great surprise to me as I had not done any lobbying.


I have made the point that in whatever you do, you must be innovative and also look for opportunities whereby you can make a positive contribution.


I am very active in the House of Lords and speak on a variety of subjects. My favourite subjects are foreign affairs, Africa, international development, humanitarian issues, human rights, defence and the economy.


I have also travelled to different countries as a member of Parliamentary delegations and delivered keynote speeches at various international conferences and gatherings.


Those of you who have plans to stay here must consider joining a political party of your choice and get involved in politics at local and national level.


If any of you need any guidance in this regard then please do speak to me.


Early last year I was sent by the British Parliament to participate and speak at a Conference on War Crimes in Kampala where I shared the platform with the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.


I was very pleased to visit Uganda and in fact when I landed in Entebbe I wanted to do what the late Pope used to do and that is to kiss the ground.


I found Kampala to be very buoyant with excellent hotels and restaurants.


My father was a very wealthy man in Uganda and he taught me that I should always follow three principles in life; 1 – Be the best in whatever you do, 2 – Be magnanimous and charitable, 3 – Always serve the community.


I have followed these principles which have guided my life. I have described to you my achievements in my political and business life.


With regard to the other two principles I have formed a charity named after my father and I am a patron of several organisations which serve the community.


Let me talk very briefly about my charity work. I have always believed that there is a great deal of satisfaction in doing charitable work as it gives happiness to both the donor and the recipient.


My charity supports good causes and undertakes work in the United Kingdom and overseas countries.


I now wish to talk about the role of the diaspora. The diaspora of any foreign country tend to do well in the United Kingdom and in the West but we must always remember where we have come from and keep affiliation with the motherland.


I think the diaspora can provide leadership and consider investing in Uganda because they have done well in this country and their contributions will help develop the mother country.


You have heard today about a number of projects and I hope that you will seriously consider getting involved whereby there will be benefit to yourself and Uganda.


We can also get involved by raising funds and items to send back home as donations and also getting involved with charities.


Finally I would like to repeat what I said earlier that every member of the diaspora is a debtor to the home country.


Winston Churchill described Uganda as the pearl of Africa and Uganda still maintains that luster, and I believe that the diaspora has a role to play to ensure that the shine is maintained.


Thank you.

Ugandan Convention UK

Lord Sheikh delivered a keynote speech at the Uganda Convention UK. The Convention was very well attended and the other speakers included several Ministers from the Ugandan Government. The subject of Lord Sheikh’s speech was “business as well as leadership matters as an inspiration to Diasporas”.

Lord Sheikh spoke about his upbringing in Uganda, his business and political activities, the principles he has followed throughout his life and what can be the role of the Diaspora in the development of Uganda. You can view a transcript of his speech by clicking here.


Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Government of Uganda about its role and responsibilities within the Commonwealth.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Uganda is well versed on Commonwealth issues, principles and values, having hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November 2007 and having held the chair-in-office role for the next two years.

In July 2010, my honourable friend Henry Bellingham underlined to President Museveni the importance of free, fair and peaceful democratic elections. The Commonwealth Observer Group was invited by the Government of Uganda to observe the February 2011 elections. In a statement issued just after elections, my honourable friend Henry Bellingham urged all political stakeholders in Uganda to reflect on the assessments of the EU and Commonwealth observers, build on the positive developments, and address the shortcomings identified in order to strengthen pluralistic, multi-party democracy in Uganda.

Our High Commission in Kampala is in contact with the current Ugandan representative on the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, who is the Commonwealth Youth Caucus’s Africa regional representative.

Furthermore, we have lobbied Ugandan Ministers, including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs and Information, on specific human rights issues including respect for the rights of sexual minorities, media freedoms and freedom of assembly. We also continue to engage with the Government of Uganda on international security and peacekeeping priorities. As a troop-contributing country to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Uganda is making a major contribution to the international community’s goals in Somalia.

We and our partners were concerned about allegations of corruption around the financing of CHOGM, and are continuing to urge the Government of Uganda to act on the report of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee.


Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what recent reports they have received about the political situation in Uganda.

Lord Howell of Guildford: Our high commission in Kampala reports regularly on all aspects of the UK’s bilateral relationship with Uganda. This has included full assessments of each stage of the recent electoral process, our bilateral trade, investment and development relationships, the situation with regards to respect for human rights, and security and prosperity in the East Africa and Great Lakes regions.

We also receive representations and reports on all of these areas from key stakeholders in Ugandan politics, including the Ugandan Government, opposition parties and interested non-governmental organisations. Last month, my honourable friend Henry Bellingham, the Minister for Africa, met MPs and Peers to discuss our assessments of the political situation in Uganda.


Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Uganda about the promotion of equal rights to its citizens irrespective of sexuality.

Lord Howell of Guildford: We have made clear to the Government of Uganda on several occasions that we are opposed to actions that will have a negative effect on the human rights of Ugandans, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. This includes our opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, tabled by a private Member, which would further criminalise homosexuality if passed into law. We have also raised our concerns to the Ugandan Government over an article that appeared in a Ugandan tabloid newspaper late last year, which apparently incited violence against homosexuals.

Our high commission in Kampala is in close touch with civil society groups that are campaigning for LGBT rights in Uganda, to which they have offered their support.


Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recent presidential elections in Uganda.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My honourable friend Henry Bellingham noted in his statement of 22 February 2011 that we fully endorse the preliminary findings of the EU and Commonwealth observation missions to Uganda, which noted that while there have been improvements in the overall conduct and transparency of the elections, they were marred by avoidable shortcomings in their organisation. We share the observer mission’s concern that the power of incumbency was exercised to such an extent as to compromise severely the level playing field between the competing candidates and political parties.

We will encourage all those elected and all Uganda’s political stakeholders, including Uganda’s Government, political parties and the Electoral Commission, to reflect on the assessments of the independent observers, build on positive developments, and address the shortcomings identified in order to strengthen pluralistic, multi-party democracy in Uganda.