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Cyprian Fernandes: Once upon a time at the Kampala Goan Institute


The History of the Kampala Goan Institute

From the 2018 KGI Centenary Brochure
With thanks to John Nazareth

The initial meeting of the 19 Goans now known as the founders, held on 26 June, 1910 at Mr. E. A. Pinto's well known business premises, followed in the steps of Goans around the world. Goans have traditionally been a highly socialized community, forming socio-cultural clubs wherever we go. Our roots are social, emanating from our traditional village system of government (or "communidades") in Goa that continued for over 1000 years, and which extended to the kudds of Bombay.
In East Africa, the trail had been blazed by the Mombasa Institute (1901), Entebbe Goan Institute (1905), and the Nairobi Goan Institute (1905). As Kampala continued to grow and increase in commercial importance, the number of Goans in the town increased. In 1910 there must have been in the region of 200 men, women and children.
After the meeting of the nineteen, it was then agreed to start a club for recreational purposes styled "The Goan Recreation Club" and the first step was a grant of land in view of the fact that the health of the Goans in Kampala both physical and mental would improve by outdoor recreation. It was true that the introduction of some kind of physical exercise would help to ameliorate the present condition and thus make the monotonous times lively and enjoyable. Up to that time thanks to the members of the Kampala Sports Club, Goans were permitted to use the KSC sports field on certain days of the week for the purpose of their sporting activities.
The application to the P. C. was sympathetically considered in the light of recommendations by a score of other senior government officials and the size which was subsequently approved was the one on which the present Institute building stands. This was considered a very good choice for it was away from the dreaded swamps close by. The size of the plot was about one acre on an initial lease of 21 years and tennis courts were soon constructed. The construction of any building on the plot was for some strange reason precluded but two rustic benches were provided for the convenience of the sports enthusiasts. The lease was signed for by the first trustees who had to be officially approved by the Government, they being Mr. A. de Figueiredo, Mr. P. Leopold de Souza and Mr. M.S. Rodrigues. The entrance fee was then fixed at Rs. 15/- and the monthly subscription Rs. 1/-. As no permanent pavilion was constructed the meetings were conducted at the residences of the Managing Committee Members.
First Recreational Activities
In 1914 a small pavilion or Banda was erected of corrugated iron sheets and timber to provide cover for the members. Cricket practice was conducted on a piece of land between the two tennis courts adjoining Circular Road (later Buganda Road). Cricket was played twice a week at the Kampala Sports Club and on these days tennis was suspended. Social gatherings were organized off and on in the Banda.
In 1915 a pavilion with railings was constructed at a cost of Rs. 600/- which was raised by loans from members of the club at Rs. 30/- per member earning interest at 3%. Donations were also received from some of the members and after sanction was obtained from the D. C. the new pavilion was inaugurated in September that year. It also enabled newspapers to be kept for the benefit of the members, which papers were bought by the Secretary every evening and taken home the same night.
1916 saw the dub fee raised from Rs.1/- to Rs. 2/- and thanks to the donation of a football by one of the members, small scale football practices were possible. A storm blew off the top of the pavilion in 1917 and it had to be closed. Necessary permission was obtained subsequently from the township authorities for a fairly solid structure with walls replacing the corrugated iron sheets and the inauguration of this building took place in August 1917.
World War I
The end of WW I in 1918 was received with joy by the members and a dance was organized to celebrate the occasion. The loans given by the members were due to be repaid in 1919 but as the funds of the club were very low it was mutually agreed to postpone the payment. A library was also started this year with donated books and in 1920 a further expansion to the building was made with the addition of a room with financial help from the members.
Holy Mass Celebrated
For the members' convenience and through the kind permission of Bishop Bierman, Mass was celebrated on the premises once a fortnight. In gratitude for this gesture of his, a collection was made by the members on the occasion of the Bishop's Silver Jubilee and the monies handed over to him for the purchase of a chalice and episcopal chair.
As the interest and caliber of sportsman rose members requested an expansion of the sports fields. In March 1921 an appeal was made to the Land Office for the grant of a sports ground. After much consideration, a site of 2½ acres was approved on a lease initially of 10 years on the plot at present at the corner of Nakasero and Kyagwe Roads. Before the lease could be signed the land authorities requested that in order to enable the trustees to apply for a Certificate of Registration as a Corporate body it was necessary for the club's name to be changed.
Name Change
Around the same epoch, the Goan clubs in Mombasa, Entebbe, and Nairobi had changed their names to “Goan Institute”. This formed a model for the Kampala Goans and on petition filed by the club's management, the name was changed to “Goan Institute, Kampala”. The adoption of the new name necessitated the drafting of new rules, helped by legal opinion, which were approved by the General Body. The Club's seal was also ordered from the U.K., as a suitable one could not be had locally and the entrance fee which was Shs. 20/- was raised to Shs. 30/-.
In 1922 a corrugated iron shed, was erected on the sports ground at a cost of Shs, 200/- for keeping the sports kit and offering the spectators some shade; this shed lasted until 1973. The members frequenting the club's premises had now increased and the bar facilities were now extended with a regular stock and a member-in-Charge of the bar. A piano was also purchased for Shs. 1,000/- and levelling of the new sports ground undertaken at a cost of Shs. 500/.
Increasing Sports Interest
As an incentive to the cricket enthusiasts, the Lowis Cup Trophy for cricket, open to all clubs in Kampala, was donated in 1923 by a member of the institute, Mr. Gerald Sequeira. In 1925 the trophy was won by the Institute under the captainship of its donor. The sporting activities of the Institute were now gaining popularity and with the new sporting facilities provided in the shape of the sports ground, tennis and badminton courts, the members took up games in a big way and numerous successes were achieved when playing in tournaments against the other clubs.
A further approach was made in 1929, in view of the increase in the number of members, to the Land Office to obtain the grounds between the Institute buildings and Bombo Road. The application could not be approved, however, until the Town Planning Adviser, who was due to visit Uganda the following year had given his advice. In 1931 the Town Planning Adviser approved the grant of the land applied for earlier and a lease of 49 years inclusive of the old was obtained from the Land Office. Construction of the two new Tennis and Badminton Courts were immediately started on the new plot and extensions to the building were also planned.
It should be mentioned here that primary classes were also being conducted at that time on the premises during the day by a few qualified Goan ladies.
Building Extension
1932 saw the inauguration by the Provincial Commissioner Mr. Cox of the first major extension of the institute when a large hall and frontage facing Bombo Road were added, this being possible by the donation and loans of the members at that time. In 1938, electricity supply was obtained from the East African Power and Lighting Company Limited and, the Club's own plant sold. A terrace was also constructed and used as a library.
The benevolence of the President that year Mr. N. Godinho is to be noted for he kept two cars at the disposal of the Hockey team to play in different tournaments, as transport for the players was now proving a hazard.

World War II
1939 saw the advent of the 2nd World War and in response to an appeal from the Goan Community, Mombasa, it was unanimously agreed by the members to offer the shelter of their houses to families from the coast in case of need. Further extension to the Institute which we approved the previous year had to be dropped in view of the hostilities. A radiogram was now obtained and it helped members to listen to the news and also relieved the members' dance orchestra of some of their weekly tasks. The war effort was also supported and various fetes and musical programs were brought up during this time in aid of the Earl Haig's Poppy Fund and the Uganda War Fund. In 1940 even the Xmas tree had to be cancelled as there was a lack of toys.
By now many of the members of the Institute had enlisted in the signalling section of the Uganda Volunteer Reserve. A Kampala Goan War Fund Committee was also established The Institute rules were revised and new rules books printed. The framework of the roof was raised at a cost of Shs. 2300/- due to rain water leakage. This however proved very temporary and a further Shs. 2000/- was spent in 1943 to stem the defect. In 1944 it was agreed to have full lady members on the payment the monthly subscription of Shs. 4/-, no entrance fee being charged. To celebrate the institute Sports Dance some of the members even willingly offered the Institute their monthly whisky ration.
A Tradition of Sports Visits
1945 saw us hosts to the Goan Institute, Kisumu during the Easter holidays and in 1946 the Goan Gymkhana, Nairobi, also paid us a visit during the same period. The Institute's white Sports shirts with sleeve ends, collars and pockets in maroon were officially approved by the General Body.
A contribution of Shs. 500/- was made to the Central Council of Indian Associations in Uganda who organized the All India Hockey Team visit in 1948. In addition a sundowner dance was held at the Institute in the visiting team's honour when a hockeystick was presented with a silver band round it, suitably engraved to mark the Team's visit to the Institute.
Rewiring of the Institute was undertaken in 1948 at a cost of about Shs. 3500/- and adequate electric fittings were made in the library and the stage. In 1950 the head boy Andreya, who had been with the Institute for 30 years, retired and in appreciation of his devoted services an occasion was held in his honour and a purse presented.  He was also allowed a handsome gratuity and three months paid leave.
Major Building Extensions Started
In 1951 the need for further extensions was very pressing and the lack of sufficient funds which had proved a deterrent in the past, was fully discussed at various meetings and it was decided to finance the loan required by voluntary loans from members, raising the levies on games, increasing the monthly subscription from Shs. 4/- to Shs. 6/- and also stepping up the entrance lee from Shs. 50/- to Shs. 100/- from the following year. A subcommittee under the chairmanship of Mr. R. Almeida was appointed to review the building plans where necessary. Extensions which were approved at a cost of Shs. 150,000/- provided for the widening of the main hall, separate room for billiards, table tennis, library, office, lounge and bar and for a terrace.
The death occurred in March 1952 of Mr. Norman Godinho, a donor of the Institute and President for many years in the past. His contributions both in services and donations to the Institute are beyond measure.
The extension had by now started piecemeal in such a way that the club was never closed for a single day. In view of the extensions at the Norman Godinho Goan School, some of the classes were held at the Institute premises. Further facilities to the sports enthusiasts were provided by the concreting of the 2nd Badminton Court by Mr. Menezes and the preparation of a Volley Ball court.
To augment the funds required for furnishing and other minor improvements, a fete was organized, 5% of the total collection being given to the Christ the King Church Fund and 5% to Lacy Cohen Charities.
The Golden Jubilee Year
The first fifty years in retrospect was a fine proof of the Institute's vitality and inner strength and some thing we had much to be proud of. As the saying "Wisdom of the past is Strength for the Future" so also it was hoped that this history would spur the next generation to rival the previous success and self sacrifice set by all and further the prosperity of the Institute in all fields, compatible with its motto " Nulli Secundus ". The members' untiring efforts permitted the Institute to cross the Diamond Milestone.
A full program of celebrations was organized by the President Mr. Peter Pereira and his Executive.
Independence
The 1960s saw a wave of change occur in colonies around the world. 1961 saw India marched into Goa and repossessed the province after many fruitless years of negotiations with the Portuguese. The Portuguese culture so imbued the Goan ethos that it would be many years before the majority of Goans outside Goa came to terms with India. In Goa itself, the modernization brought by India made the people realize the time warp they had lived in.
Changes also transpired in Uganda leading up to independence from Britain in 1962. There was little joint thought given to strategy for the community in the country. Goan families were left to their own thoughts as to whether they wanted to become Uganda citizens and stay in the country. Some discussion must have gone on among friends, but there was little if any general discussion. Politics in Uganda were unlike many African countries. The dominant political parties – the Democratic Party (DP) and Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) were divided more along religious lines – the DP being dominantly Catholic and the UPC Anglican.
It was estimated that about 32% of the 80,000 Indo-Pakistanis became citizens and in all likelihood this percentage applied to Goans too. Many Goans decided that they would return to Goa, whereas others had acquired British Citizenship and had plans to move there in time. However, within two years after Independence the processing of applications for citizenship slowed to a crawl, so it will never be known how many actually intended to take up citizenship.
October 9th, 1962 was a happy day when the new Prime Minister Milton Obote took office. The country was positive as it had a lot going for it. The Civil Service was the most efficient in Africa, thanks in a large part on the numerous Goans who worked in it. The Health Care system was also the best in Africa. Very few Goans were overtly political and so life continued to be good. The Kabaka of Uganda became the (non-executive) President and head of state.
Non-African citizens of the country continued to be treated well. All Ugandan citizens continued to have their education either subsidized or free. Post-secondary education was free. Goans continued to be promoted to high positions in the Civil Service – even those who were non-citizens. There was little of the Africanization policy that we observed in neighbouring Kenya.
Political Unrest
The first sign of unrest began when the political alliance between the UPC and The Kabaka Yekka Party disintegrated. In the disagreement that ensued the Prime Minister sacked the President, abolished the local kingships, changed the constitution and declared the country a republic, with himself as Executive President.
To a large extent these troubles left the Goan community untouched, but it was a signal to some Goans that it was time to move, especially because applications for citizenship were not being processed. So it was in 1967 that a few Goans started moving to the UK, Goa and Canada. By 1970 some 20% of the Goans had left.
As time progressed the Institute evolved. Africans were now being given a greater opportunity to take part in political and economic life of the country. A few became members of the Institute and even joined the Executive. As the KGI admitted more non-Goan members it decided to drop the word “Goan” from its name to make it clear that the Institute was open to all.
Expulsion Of Asians
On January 25, 1971 General Idi Amin led the army to overthrow President Milton Obote. For many this was an ominous sign as the armed forces had few skills in leading a government. However, after some early skirmishes, life settled down and Goans continued to live normally. It is perhaps significant that what affected Goans more was that the civil service work day shifted from a 6-day week (8:00am to 4:00pm, weekdays and 8:30am to 12:30pm on Saturdays) to a 5-day week (8:00am to 5:00pm). This extra hour during the week had a significant impact on sports, a pastime that Goans just couldn’t get enough of.
The militarization of the country started affecting all aspects of life and a general deterioration in security started. Goans continued to have good relations with all. Africans found the Goans easy-going and we shared a lot in common – our religion, love of alcoholic beverages, and love of socializing.
General Amin started using different groups as scapegoats when the Army’s incompetence in running the country became more obvious. And then it was our turn ….
On August 4, 1972 General Amin announced that that he had discovered that “Asians” (Indians and Pakistanis) were milking the economy and therefore to save the country he was going to give those Asians who were not Uganda citizens 90 days to leave the country. At first people thought this was a joke, but slowly it began to sink in and the government took steps to facilitate this decision. The various Ministers aghast at the loss to the infrastructure of the country took to exempting certain classes of people from the Expulsion order.
At the Institute there was a sense of resignation about the chaos that was to follow. However, it was expected that a significant portion of the Goan community and other Asians would remain as some 40% were Uganda Citizens. (Although early estimates on the number of Asians in the country at the time pointed to 80,000, in fact many had left over a period of three years and it is believed that at most there were 46,000 in 1972.) A meeting was organized by the Goan Association at the KGI to examine a joint approach to the Expulsion. It was decided that the Association would use its reserve funds to help poor Goans who wanted to return to Goa but were short of funds to purchase their tickets.
Then General Amin, deciding that not enough Asians were leaving, announced that those who were Uganda Citizens would also have to leave. Although he later changed his mind, it was now clear to all what his intentions were. In early September 1972 the United Nations opened mission to accept stateless refugees and Canada decided to accept those who qualified regardless of citizenship. At this almost everybody made up their minds to leave.
The Deadline Arrives
On November 5, 1972 all Asians who were still in the country had to register. The number of Goans in the KI were now down to at most 20% of its previous numbers. And even these would leave in time. Sports continued to be played.
Sometime between November and December 1972 the Entebbe Institute and the Kampala Institute played what would be the last hockey match on the KI field. After this there weren’t enough players left to play hockey in either club. And with the death of hockey, the death of the Goan community in Kampala couldn’t be far behind.

Where Goans Went to
When the Institute was founded in 1910 there were about 200 Goans in Kampala including men women and children. At its peak (in 1960), the population rose to some 6000 Goans in Kampala and around another 1000 in the rest of the country. By the time of the Expulsion, the population had dropped to 5500 or so. Of this number it is estimated that 1800 went to India, 1800 to the UK, 900 to Canada, 400 to Australia and the rest to Europe and the USA. These Goans would be a boon to the fledgling Goan communities around the world and provided talent to the organizing committees and sports teams, and indeed to the countries that welcomed them.
Loss of the Building
Sometime in late 1972 (probably December) around 1:30pm armed Prison Officers surrounded the club. Some entered the building and asked Joe Fernandes, Jos Almeida and a few other members present to leave, stating that the Government had allocated the building to the Prison Officers. Thus ended a chapter in one of the greatest Goan clubs in East Africa.
Regain of the Building
In 1983, four years after the overthrow of the Amin regime, the government of the day declared that all expropriated Asian properties were to be returned to their original owners. A number of members living in Uganda submitted a claim for repossession, but were rejected. This was the beginning of a fight to reclaim the club. Those involved were Jos Almeida, Joe Fernandes, [the late] Arthur De Mello and [the late] Professor Joe Carasco.
Thanks to the persistence of these members, especially Joe Fernandes, an appeal to the Supreme Court was successful. On July 14, 1995 the building was handed over to Jos Almeida and Joe Fernandes.
And the Future ….?
It is not clear what the future lies for the Goan community in Uganda. On November 8, 2008 an article appeared in the Uganda newspaper New Vision “The Goan Legacy... Living On In Uganda”. We would hope that it is a new beginning, but for those of us who left, we know that Uganda was truly our Paradise Lost.
Postscript
During the good times and trying times, the Goans always faced life with strong community relationships and a strong acceptance of the providence of God. It led a Bishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto to say “What would we do without the De Souzas and Fernandes’s?” We have and will endure, enriching the lives of our members and all those around us in the societies we became part of.

For the period 1910 to 1960, this history used extensive extracts from the history written by John Carneiro for the Golden Jubilee Brochure. Ed.