Govt accuses 2 NGOs of funding terrorism

Sunday December 13 2020
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As the race to State House gets tenser, the Central Government is 'taking no chances'. PHOTO/FILE/PPU.

By Franklin Draku

The Financial Intelligence Authority has revealed that bank accounts of two non-governmental organisations allegedly involved in moving money to finance terrorism activities have been frozen. 

These are; Uganda National NGO Forum and Uganda Women’s Network.
The claims follow months of espionage on the two organisations by the security forces. 

Sources privy to the investigations say the organisations have been under surveillance for some time over their alleged links and “friendliness” to Opposition political parties.

The Financial Intelligence Authority has not provided specifics of the nature of terrorism activities and which terrorist organisations the two are funding. 
The organisations in the spotlight are heavily involved in civic education and have been critical of what they call the government’s failure to provide level playing field for political competition as the January 14 elections draw closer.

On December 3, this newspaper broke the story of freezing of the accounts of the NGOs on the orders of the Financial Intelligence Authority after months of investigations.

“The Financial Intelligence Authority received intelligence from one of the security agencies indicating that the Uganda National NGO Forum and the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) were involved in terrorism financing activities. Consequently in accordance with section 17A (11 of the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Act. 2015, the FIA caused the freezing of funds on the bank accounts held by NGO forum and Uganda Women’s Network, ” a letter written by the FIA Executive Director, Sydney Asubo to the Director of Public Prosecution, reads in part states.

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According to the letter, 10 accounts held by the Uganda National NGO Forum in Stanbic Bank, Absa Bank and KCB bank and another 10 belonging to the UWONET in Stanbic Bank have been frozen, awaiting prosecutions.

UWONET was involved in 2016 elections observation and was at the centre of the women’s situation room that advocated free, fair and peaceful elections. 
The Uganda National NGO Forum has also been accredited to observe the 2021 elections. 

Ahead of next year’s polls, the two have been critical of violence meted against the Opposition candidates and their supporters during the ongoing campaigns.

At least 54 people were officially confirmed dead, hundreds injured and further hundreds have been arrested by the security forces during the two days of riots following the arrests of Patrick Oboi Amuriat, the Forum for Democratic Change presidential candidate and Robert Kyagulanyi,  the National Unity Platform candidate. 

Mr Asubo has requested the  DPP to take up the case management and ensure that the two NGOs are prosecuted.

“Therefore, in accordance with section 17A |2) of the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Act 2015 we hereby bring this matter to your attention for your further management. Please find hereto attached copies of our letter instructing the banks to freeze the funds on the respective bank accounts,” the letter concludes.

Civil societies respond
When contacted,  Mr Moses Isooba, the executive director of the Uganda National NGO Forum,  said he was in a meeting and promised to get back to us. However, by press time he  had not responded. 

Ms Rita Aciro-Lakor, the executive director of Uganda Women’s Network, could also not be reached for a comment.

However, other civil society organisations have accused government of deliberate denial of civic space for those involved in demanding good governance. 

Ms Cissy Kagaba, the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Collation Uganda, said the timing of the charges is meant to intimidate  CSOs. “It’s unfortunate, NGOs that complement government work should be appreciated instead of being persecuted,” Ms Kagaba said.
 

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