Ugandan NGOs decry government suspension
The Executive Director of Uganda’s most well-known human rights organization, Chapter Four, and the Chairperson of the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy (CCEDU) comment on the Ugandan government’s decision to shut down 54 civil society organizations. The shutdown was ordered “with immediate effect,” according to the National Bureau for NGOs, which is part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The Ugandan government announced on Friday that it has ordered the suspension of operations of more than 50 non-governmental organizations, marking a significant step forward in the country’s efforts to tighten control over civil society.
Chapter Four, the country’s most well-known human rights organization, is among the 54 organizations affected, as are charities, religious, environmental, and electoral democracy organizations.
The shutdown was ordered “with immediate effect,” according to the National Bureau for NGOs, which is part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The groups had broken the law by operating with expired permits, failing to file accounts, and failing to register with the authorities, according to the report.
On polling day in January, some of the organizations forced to close took part in an election monitoring operation that was stormed by security agents and during which some of its leaders were arrested.
After a violent campaign characterised by harassment and arrests of opposition members, attacks on the media, and the killings of several dozen individuals, President Yoweri Museveni was re-elected for a sixth term in office in a closely contested election.
Nicholas Opiyo, executive director of Chapter Four, stated that his organization had received the government’s closure order.
“We’ve always acted above board & repudiate any representation of unlawful conduct on our part,” he tweeted, describing the situation as a “misunderstanding”.
Another of the suppressed organizations, the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy (CCEDU), is led by Charity Ahimbisibwe, who called the government action as “extremely unfortunate.”
The move, according to Ahimbisibwe, came after the organization had been summoned to government offices several times since it produced a report detailing electoral fraud.
The CCEDU’s operating authorization had expired, but Ahimbisibwe stated it had requested an extension since renewing it was impossible due to the protracted coronavirus lockdown and apparent stalling by local government authorities.
Responding to the shutdown on Twitter, the European Union in Uganda emphasized the importance of civil society in the country.
“Civil society is a key partner making vital contributions to Uganda’s development. We look forward to the resolution of any issues with registration of organisations so that this important work can continue in the spirit of a genuine partnership based on mutual accountability.”