On September 20, police raided, searched, interrogated staff and confiscated property of two non-governmental organisations, including ActionAid International Uganda. This was precipitated by a search warrant from court. These actions of police were followed with the Central Bank freezing ActionAid’s bank accounts on October 3.
We also note with concern that these actions have been extended to other organisations - Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies and Uhuru Institute for Social Development. An additional 25 NGOs have been requested by the NGO Bureau to submit various documents, some dating as far back as three years.
These actions have been followed with threatening remarks from government officials, including the most ridiculous rant that NGOs will be charged with treason. These incidents have caused great anxiety and uncertainty among NGOs. These actions by State agencies have specifically frustrated the operations of ActionAid International Uganda, and several organisations and individuals they support.
ActionAid International Uganda has over the years supported several organisations, including Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda to demand for good governance, transparency and accountability. Their work over the decades has reached and changed lives of the most downtrodden Ugandans, especially in the realms of health, education and access to justice. Their goal of furthering human rights, defeating poverty and ending injustice is one we identify with.
With the litany of intelligence organs in the country, it is unfortunate that it has taken the Uganda police, Bank of Uganda, Financial Intelligence Authority, etc, this long to raise a red flag against ActionAid had it been engaging in money laundering-related issues.
Government should not only be comfortable with NGOs as allies helping them to do their work, but also be at ease when NGOs ask questions relating to how government is doing its work on behalf of all the citizens. Much as we are cognisant that it is the work of Police to investigate crimes, we expect a high degree diligence, impartiality and professionalism.
We call for expeditious investigations and conclusion of all cases against NGOs. The investigative process shouldn’t be used as a disguise to frustrate, derail and curtail the operations of these NGOs. Police and other state institutions must not use their statutory power as a veiled attack on NGOs.
The legal framework of this country including the Constitution (1995) bestow upon State agencies a responsibility of guaranteeing and respecting the independence of nongovernmental organisations which protect and promote human rights.
Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda