How a major in Amin's army saved my father
Jaffer Kapasi believes only the timely intervention of an army major who knew his father prevented his kidnap – or worse. Mr Kapasi was working in his father's hardware business in the Ugandan village of Masindi, in the kingdom of Bunyoro.
Life was idyllic for the family. "From the verandah you could see hippos in our gardens, in the lake you could see them throwing water and playing with each other," said Mr Kapasi.
Then came the announcement that was throw the family into turmoil. "I was 22 when I heard the news on Ugandan radio. I took it as a joke, that Idi Amin would change his mind and that the British government would help. Many soldiers were among our customers.
"My father tried to sell as much of his stock as possible, but the sudden selling of the same things, from cars to personal belongings, became of no value because of the inflation created by everyone selling."
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Three soldiers arrived in the early hours one morning at the family's spacious home.
"They were very young soldiers and they were all carrying semi-automatic weapons. They told my father they wanted him to go with them to the army barracks," he recalled.
"My brother insisted on getting in the car with him and the soldiers got in the back.They came to a road block and a major who knew my father told the soldiers to leave him alone. My father drove home.
"Had he not come across the major, he could have been shot or killed or the family forced to pay a ransom. God was with him. My father was a leading figure in the business community and therefore a target for kidnapping."
The incident convinced the family it was time to go. Mr Kapasi, now 62, of Oadby, said:" We were living in total fear.
"We had to go to Kampala to the British High Commission, with my father hiding all the way because of the threats.
"The army were there throwing their weight around. Everyone was trying to get out of the country. We wondered if there would be enough flights for us all."
"In the last week of the three-month expiry date we packed all we could of our belongings and hired a minibus to take us to Entebbe airport.
"We said goodbye to our friends and our home.We were a large family, five brothers, two sisters and mum and dad.
"Our African servants were in tears, they were asking us how they were going to make a living.At the second road block we came across one of the army colonels who knew my father who volunteered to travel with us so we would not be harassed by Amin's soldiers."
The family arrived, shivering in the November cold, at Stansted Airport.
"We were given a warm welcome," said Mr Kapasi. "We were given tea and biscuits and warm clothing and taken to a disused Army barracks. We always remain thankful to the British people for what they did for us.
"My dad passed away at the age of 63 in 1980. I think the stress of what had happened in Uganda and starting a new life might have contributed to his death."
"We tried to follow in father's footsteps.
"My brother started working for Wilkinson's hardware store before becoming manager and then leaving to start his own DIY business which now has three stores.
"Two other members of the family, like me, are accountants. It's in us to be self-employed.
"The family is well settled here and all the children have gone on to do well. My son once got a job which is usually only open to Oxford or Cambridge graduates because they recognised his Ugandan business acumen.
Mr Kapasi, who is managing director of his own chartered accountancy business, led trade missions to the country of his birth in 1994 and 1996. He was asked to return to Uganda and help develop the country.
"I would love to go back, but my children were born in the UK and are more British than the British themselves," he said. "But when I retire I may think of going back."
Mr Kapasi served as Deputy Lieutenant of Leicestershire in 1999 and is an OBE for services to business.