King Charles welcomes Ugandan Asians at first major Buckingham Palace event

Monarch praised for his 'acknowledgement, encouragement and affection' for British-Asian community

Britain's King Charles III talks with guests during a reception for the 50th anniversary of the resettlement of Asians from Uganda in the UK, at Buckingham Palace, London. AFP
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King Charles III hosted members of the Asian community who fled to the UK from Uganda 50 years ago, at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, earning him praise for sending a “wonderful message” in the current migration climate.

The fact that the king chose to make his first major event a “multicultural one” was significant, veteran broadcaster Jon Snow said.

Snow, a former Channel 4 News presenter, reported on Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s decision to expel Asians in 1972.

He attended the palace reception alongside the Uganda Asians, leading figures and charities that supported the displaced.

Snow later co-hosted a palace ceremony of recollection, readings and music to mark the 50-year milestone, during which actor and comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar poked fun at the king’s relationship with new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose Asian parents grew up in East Africa.

“The expulsion of the Asian population was a traumatic, murderous experience for those affected and it also devastated Uganda’s economy,” Snow told the guests.

“Today we bask in what Uganda was deprived of, an innovative and dedicated population of motivated people who have done so much to boost our own economy and our own well-being.

“Uganda’s loss has proved Britain’s incomparable gain.”

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Paying tribute to the king — who helped to found the British Asian Trust that organised the event — Bhaskar praised him for his “acknowledgement, encouragement and affection” for the British-Asian community, which has been “unsurpassed”.

In a light-hearted reference to the king's weekly audiences with Mr Sunak, he said: “Although that was before he had to meet one every week, the same man every week.”

Bhaskar joked about the image of the scolding Asian auntie who the king could call on if the prime minister was a “little bit naughty”.

And the audience laughed as he told of the “secret cabal of Asian women of a certain age who could have a word in his ear — I like to call them the Illuminati”.

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The event was the first major royal engagement at Buckingham Palace since royal mourning ended after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

It marked brutal dictator Amin’s expulsion of Uganda’s Asian minority of about 80,000 people, who were given 90 days to leave the country.

The government of then-prime minister Edward Heath opened the door to about 28,000 Ugandan Asians who fled to the UK to start a new life.

Lord John Sentamu, the former Archbishop of York who was a lawyer working in Uganda at the time and spoke out against Amin, told the guests the Ugandan Asians were “one of the great successes and a tremendous asset to this country”.

The cleric sang the Ugandan national anthem with Snow and fellow presenter Jonathan Dimbleby when they first met the king at an earlier reception, with Snow saying afterwards the king enjoyed the moment when they gave him a “good blast”.

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On the contribution of the Ugandan Asians, he said : “If you think how historically recent this was — the impact they’ve had on the British economy is absolutely incredible.

“And I also think with King Charles to make his first major public moment a multicultural one sends a wonderful message.”

The king also spoke to Baroness Virginia Bottomley and Sir Peter Bottomley, MP, who opened their home to Razia Jetha and her late husband Roshan when they arrived from Uganda in 1972.

“It was so appalling the situation, we felt we must do something and Peter went down to the reception camp at West Malling and came back with the Jethas," said Baroness Bottomley, holding hands with Razia.

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“It was a sort of miraculous and wonderful experience because we really liked each other and I learnt so much from the Jethas.

“What I couldn’t get over was the grace, the sense of forgiveness.

“Most people when all their property, all their business had been confiscated, would be angry, but not the Jethas.

“They went straight out to work.”

Razia replied: “We learnt from you, too.”

The king also held a Buckingham Palace reception on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the achievements of Olympic and Paralympic medallists.

Sport stars who won gold, silver and bronze at Tokyo 2020 and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games were welcomed by Charles and Queen Consort Camilla.

The king and his wife were joined by the Earl of Wessex, who is the patron of the British Paralympic Association, the Princess Royal, president of the British Olympic Association, and the Duke of Gloucester.

The gathering of the senior royals was marked by a photograph of the group, which was rereleased after the reception attended by about 150 sporting stars.

Tom Daley, who won gold in Tokyo in the men’s synchronised 10-metre platform with diving partner Matty Lee this year, was attending his fourth Olympic reception at the palace and reminisced how the queen said that maybe she should have been a gymnast, due to her short stature.

Mr Lee said about their chat with the king: “We were talking about how you can belly flop and making a splash.

“We chatted about how we punch a hole in the water, to make no splash, and I said if we get it wrong it can hurt a lot.

“And he said, ‘I don’t know how you do that’. It’s just crazy to have a conversation with the king.

“I did not think I would be talking about belly flops on a Wednesday night with the king.”

Prince William urged to ‘Netflix and chill’ during visit to African film festival

The Prince of Wales was advised he should “Netflix and chill” as he took a trip to the cinema to learn about the Royal African Society’s film festival on Wednesday.

Prince William attended The Garden Cinema in central London where he heard that not enough black stories are being told on screen.

The heir to the throne sat in the audience for a Q&A session during the event, which aims to give young film students of African heritage an opportunity to learn more about the industry, network with others and learn from international professionals.

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The prince, who is patron of the Royal African Society, also joined workshop groups and heard about the experiences of students.

When he expressed interest in watching more African films, he was advised he could “Netflix and chill” — a somewhat risque slang term — with a new movie being released on the streaming platform later this week.

EbonyLife TV and EbonyLife Films founder Mo Abudu spoke to Prince William in one of the small discussion groups.

She suggested he watch The King’s Horseman, a film made by her company, which is due to be released on Netflix on Friday.

It is a cinematic adaptation of a play which tells the story of a tradition in Nigeria in which a king’s horseman would sacrifice himself so he could serve his deceased ruler in the afterlife.

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Of her conversation with Prince William, Ms Abudu told the PA news agency: “He said he hasn’t watched a lot of African films but that he would like to and that he’s going to watch The King’s Horseman.

“I’m excited that I’ve been able to tell the prince about my film today.”

Asked what Prince William’s reaction was, she said: “I said you must ‘Netflix and chill’ and he nodded.”

During Wednesday’s cinema engagement, Prince William listened intently as students and experts told of their experiences in the film industry.

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During the Q&A — which also featured Ghanaian-American writer and actor Nana Mensah and costume and fashion designer Colleen Morris-Glennon, Ms Abudu told those gathered in the screening room that “black storytelling is key”.

“I think it doesn’t matter what part of the world we come from, you can be from Africa, you can be American, you can be black British, you can be from the Caribbean,” she said.

“I just think that there’s something about being a global black person and telling stories that reflect the black consciousness that we need to keep doing.

“Yes, our focus is to tell black stories because there aren’t enough black stories being told. So it’s not about ‘oh, is it reverse racism?’ No, it’s not. It’s actually about diversity.”

She said there is also “great African literature” which should be explored on screen.

“We’ve had all the Jane Austen novels, we’ve had so many from the West. Let’s do some fresh things, let’s do some great storytelling,” she said.

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Established in 2011, Film Africa showcases the best African cinema from across the continent and diaspora in the UK.

This year’s festival features 48 films from 16 countries in seven venues — including 22 UK, Europe and world premieres.

Other festival events include talks and discussions, professional workshops and masterclasses, school screenings and family activities.

Prince William’s cinema trip followed a symposium at St James’s Palace earlier on Wednesday that brought together this year’s Tusk Conservation Awards winners, previous award winners and conservation experts.

The prince attended the Tusk awards on Tuesday evening.

Updated: November 03, 2022, 8:27 AM