Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) yesterday challenged government to produce evidence to back up claims that the Uganda National NGO-Forum and Uganda Women Network (UWONET) are financing terrorism activities in the country.
Addressing journalists at a joint press conference in Ntinda on Sunday, the CSOs said government has previously closed various NGO offices without proof.
“...You cannot claim that the NGO Forum and UWONET were involved in terrorism and leave the leaders to move freely on the streets. Terrorists cannot be left to move freely on the streets because it would put the lives of people in danger,” Mr Godber Tumushabe, an associate director at the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, said.
According to the December 10 letter, from the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), addressed to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the authority decided to freeze accounts of the organisations for allegedly funding terrorism.
Ten bank accounts belonging to NGO-forum and 10 accounts of UWONET held in various banks have since been frozen, affecting their operations.
Mr Nicholas Opiyo, the executive director of Chapter 4 Uganda, said the matter has already been put before his office.
“We protest against the actions of the State and we think they are doing this out of panic given the heated up political season in the country. The DPP is a very reasonable person and we urge her to act based on facts,” Mr Opiyo said. “We shall use both legal and non-legal means to challenge these allegations,” he added.
Ms Sarah Bireete, the Executive Director of Centre for Constitutional Governance, said President Museveni should ask his officers to recall the statement because an attack on UWONET is an attack on all women.
Works affected due to freezing of accounts
According to the Chairperson of UWONET Ms Tezira Jamwa, activities affected are activities related to the elections of women and youth ahead of the general polls in January. She said they have had to suspend a number of their meetings after their accounts were frozen.
“This action has and will continue to affect the operation of UWONET generally but specifically activities that were ongoing for the benefit of our targeted groups especially women and girls including the activities for the 126 days of activism to end gender based violence and trainings of women candidates in various districts,” Ms Jamwa said in a letter dated December 12.
Mr Opiyo on the other hand said that salaries of people employed in these organisations will be impacted as well as the payments for suppliers.
At the same press conference, CSOs criticized the government’s move of registering journalists afresh who want to cover the forthcoming elections saying the time left is small to cover all journalists across the country.
Mr Xavier Ejoyi, Country Director of Action Aid said that an attack on NGOs by the government and journalists is aimed at intimidating them from observing and covering the forthcoming elections.
He said that despite the government freezing their accounts, they will go ahead to observe the elections come January 2021.
They also condemned security forces battering journalists who are covering opposition presidential candidates asserting that it is uncalled for.
They asked parliament and religious leaders to speak out on these injustices committed on citizens, asserting that their silence is uncalled for.
It is an umbrella organisation of National women’s NGOs and individuals operating in East Africa. The organisation that is headed by Ms Rita Aciro was born out of the East African Women’s conference that was held in Kampala in 1993 in preparation for the UN world conference on women in Beijing, China 1995.
It has a membership of 20 women rights organisations and nine individual activists.
It is known for its participation in galvanising the capacity of women in leadership including elective and appointive positions and economic empowerment of women across the country.
About Uganda National NGO-Forum
It is an independent and inclusive national platform for all NGOs in Uganda.
It has a membership of 585 NGOs across the country who subscribe to it.
The forum that was formed in 1997 is headed by Mr Richard Ssewakiryanga. Its major role is to coordinate, organize and regulate the works of all NGOs across the country hence it hosts a quality assurance mechanism.