Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West is a little book that is packed with richness. It’s a personal story filled with fascinating anecdotes, but it’s also a perspective of historical events that not many people know much about.
Mansoor Ladha was born on the island of Zanzibar and grew up in the East African country of Tanzania. A third-generation Asian in a predominantly black African nation, he grew up in a close community of Ismailis (a branch of Shia Muslims and followers of the Aga Khan). At the time Tanzania was under British colonial rule but everything changed with the dawn of independence.
Ladha was proudly nationalistic and considered Tanzania his home. But as a young man he was forced to consider otherwise. “The full realization that we were not wanted in Africa came to us, the whole Asian community, in 1972 when Ugandan dictator Idi Amin expelled the country’s eighty thousand Indians, Pakistanis, and Ugandan Asians… This ethnic cleansing soon spread to neighboring Kenya and Tanzania…where many families lost everything.”
After leaving Tanzania, Ladha worked for a while as a journalist in Kenya and later moved with his family to Canada. Here being Asian became an issue once again. He struggled to find a job in the newspaper industry as he was constantly told he lacked “Canadian experience”, a euphemism he soon discovered for being non-white. But Ladha persisted and eventually got a job on the Edmonton Journal.
A few years later he was in a position to fulfil his life’s ambition of buying his own newspaper. He ended up with two. The Morinville Mirror and The Redwater Tribune were community newspapers in Edmonton and they became Ladha’s passion for the next twenty-five years.
Memoirs of a Muhindi gave me a glimpse into a story I knew nothing about. So much of Africa’s history focuses on the struggle between black and white. Ladha’s story is a unique perspective of a particular time and place in Africa’s history. He says he wrote the book for this reason. “Not much is written about East Africa’s Asians by East African-born Asian writers. As such, there is a need for us to write about our experiences in Africa, our accounts of our childhood, our community, and the hardships our ancestors and our families had to undergo.”
Today, this award-winning journalist and his wife live in Calgary, Alberta, where they still play an active role in their community. Ladha received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award in 2013.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM