So Now What Is The Issue Against Mr. Sudhir?

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Hussein Lumumba Amin
By :
Hussein Lumumba Amin

His personal history shows that while his parents chose British citizenship in 1972 and left Uganda, their son Sudhir chose to return decades later and be Ugandan in Uganda.

Let it be clear that Ugandan citizenship was the main offer made by my late father His Excellency Field Marshal President Idi Amin Dada in 1972 to the British Asians, but understandably most of them chose to migrate to glittering Europe, just like many would do even today if they were given a chance for British citizenship.

Partly the same motive behind all the current refugees migrating from Africa, Middle East and Asia to Europe, America and Australia.

So the Asians who left Uganda for Britain and North America in 1972, they all secretly consider my late father to be the biggest blessing of their lives because it allowed them to settle overseas and enjoy Western citizenship, though they must pretend and make sure that they cry some crocodile tears when discussing the matter in public.

That is the reality that is happening behind the politics.

Sudhir Ruparelia – Ugandan business magnate and investor

However, Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia did the very opposite of all these economic migrants when he chose to return to Uganda from the UK, and took the Ugandan citizenship that has remained on offer to the Asians since 1972.

Let’s be absolutely clear that before 1972, the Asians in Uganda didn’t even have Ugandan citizenship. It is Field Marshal Idi Amin who by presidential decree established the laws and procedures for them to get Ugandan nationality. These laws continue to exist to this day. So the offer of Ugandan citizenship that most Asians had rejected back in 1972, opting instead to go and live as British citizens overseas, is the same Ugandan citizenship that some are claiming today. Including Mr. Sudhir when he returned to Uganda in the early 90’s. He and many other Ugandan Asians are only able to take Ugandan citizenship today thanks to laws already put in place for them by President Idi Amin way back in 1972 when their parents refused to be Ugandans and left for the UK. It is neighbouring Kenya’s former president Jomo Kenyatta who in 1968 famously called it “an abuse of our hospitality”.

However, one will not find many Ugandan Asians doing that opposite journey from Europe, even if they are offered the opportunity free of charge. That is something we all have to understand about the Asians migration from East Africa to Europe.

Today Dr. Sudhir stands as the very symbol of Ugandan entrepreneurship, if not African entrepreneurship. Upon his return to the country, he invested in Uganda, and has ever since been re-investing in Uganda. This is completely different from most investments that milk the country, and export all profits abroad to develop other country’s using us.

What is even more commendable is that Mr. Sudhir’s investments have enabled countless indeginous Ugandans start up in business, or expand their existing businesses. A case in point is all the financing that many Ugandans (and foreigners) have got from his Crane Bank to purchase assets, homes, invest and do business in the economy of this country.

Dr. Ruparelia represents exactly the kind of investor that Africa needs. He is Ugandan. But if for example all the Foreign Direct Investors from around the world operated with the same re-investment philosophy as him, imagine what kind of economic growth rates Uganda and the continent would enjoy.

It is for this reason that I urge for special consideration and care for local investors like Sudhir Ruparelia at the development and economic policy level.

They are the true long term development of our country and our continent.

He is more important to this country’s economy than any single Foreign Direct Investor, and Uganda benefits far more from citizens like him than from any single FDI.

This is fact:

Therefore he should be treated far better than the special treatment we give to foreign direct investors, and it also means that snatching his bank away from him was a huge error of judgement, and a critical economic mistake for anyone concerned with the development of this country. Moreso when it has been established that the closure of his bank was not only in error, the closure of crane bank appears to have been based on outright greed, theft, fraud and widespread incompetence within the local financial sector regulator, the Bank of Uganda, the institution behind the closure of Crane bank.

Ironically the central bank is the institution whose primary mandate is to ensure economic growth plus the stability of the financial sector, yet here they are relentlessly shutting down the very industry they are supposed to support.

Let us remember that great indeginous entrepreneurs like the late Mzee Thomas Katoto and Hajji Suleiman Kiggundu had their banks taken from them under the same questionable circumstances, and they both even died in bitter misery from the pressures brought about by this unbecoming behaviour by thieving individuals at Bank of Uganda. These crooks have literally killed at least two great entrepreneurs who were an integral part of growing the Ugandan economy.

What is wrong with some people? These so-called officials are individuals who can never equal the contributions made by those they shut down. Obviously something is wrong with our understanding of who actually drives a nation’s economic growth and how: It’s entrepreneurship.

For the record, and to the best of my knowledge, Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia has actually not been found guilty of any crime whatsoever by any court of law in Uganda or in any other jurisdiction.

We should therefore stop the unproductive behaviour of stifling our own nation’s economic potential, stop the behaviour of always trying to bring successful people down simply because of their business success, and instead actually start learning from such a blessing, and even now consider starting meaningful discussions on restitution.

I would even advise that Crane bank be floated on the Ugandan stock exchange so that other Ugandans can buy and own shares in the company and it’s profits, thereby benefitting financially from such a good investment but also learning directly from Mr. Sudhir’s business acumen.

This for our own economic good as a nation.

Show me any single entrepreneur today who continues to invest in Uganda even after everything that has been said and done against him like in the case of Mr. Sudhir Ruparelia. Others simply cut their losses, recover whatever investment capital they can, then pack their bags and go elsewhere to all the other countries who would do anything to have an investor like him bring his dollars to their economies. Not Sudhir. He has clearly chosen to stay and continue making new investments in Uganda’s tourism and properties market.

This is therefore a person in the same category as Amirali Karmali (Mzee Mukwano) who passed away last year. Actually the late Mukwano was one of those who even stayed in Uganda in 1972, took Ugandan nationality when others chose to leave, and then grew a very successful business empire in this country until his death last year, leaving his family and business partners to continue his legacy.

Now as a disclaimer, and because some people think Sudhir’s money is always behind anyone who speaks in his support, let me make it clear that nobody is paying me to say what I am writing here. If anything, people have said we have a xenophobic grudge against Asians when in reality back in 1972 we put in place the provisions for Ugandan nationality that people like Sudhir are enjoying today.

And patriots serve their country for the benefit of all it’s people regardless of race, tribe, religion or political affiliation. Therefore it is important that I put my knowledge and understanding of development macro-economics to the benefit of my country and the people of Uganda. For the record, the economy of Uganda and the economic empowerment of Ugandans was a huge policy priority by my late father, and this is partly what Sudhir is doing but also benefitting from.

The only thing I personally ever did for Sudhir before, and it was even without their knowledge of my full identity, was when I had a meeting with his managers at a media house where I once worked, and I then designed, scripted and voiced advertising material for his business back in the late 1990’s as a production professional at Capital radio.

Ugandans might remember hearing a prominent radio advert that aired for more than an entire decade on their FM radio’s. It ended saying the famous tag line “Crane Forex Bureau. Also at the Speke Hotel. Growing to serve, and serving to grow.”

Yes that was me…with additional voicing later by a former colleague called Nash Kiwanuka.

In conclusion there are many new awards out there, some of them “fake awards” given to undeserving individuals for patronage or to try to inflate their achievements and personal ego’s, but who in their right mind can argue against Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award for his achievements and contribution in uplifting and sustaining the Pearl of Africa’s tourism industry despite all the known challenges and upheavals that he and countless other industry operators have faced in the last several decades, continue to endure even today, and might suffer even more losses tomorrow in this global corona virus economic slump era?

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Lumumba Amin is a son to former Ugandan president, the late Idi Amin Dada

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