The Africans Rising Movement, allied with civil society organizations around the world, is concerned by the Ugandan government’s persecution of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Uganda.
Over the past few years, the country’s ruling regime has demonstrated its resolve to hold on to power at any and all cost. In this effort, democracy and good governance have increasingly been trampled upon. CSOs working to monitor government policies and actions for accountability purposes face persistent intimidation and restrictive legal frameworks that imperil their operations.
In 2017, a series of office raids, bank account closures, and arrests targeted organizations such as ActionAid Uganda, Solidarity Uganda, Chapter Four, and the UHURU Institute. These violations, overseen by government agents, were justified through trumped-up allegations including unnamed illicit activities and money laundering.
In 2020, the Ugandan Minister for Internal Affairs, Jeje Odongo, said that the level of suspicion between civil society organizations and the Government was high, but that the Government was committed to improving its working relationship with CSOs. However, the harassment of CSOs and their members have continued unabated.
In the same year, at least five NGO leaders were either deported or barred from coming back to the country on accusations of supporting an agenda for regime change. At the same time, Mr. Odongo ordered all CSOs to go through a mandatory validation and verification process before they were to be allowed to continue their operations. These actions, among others, were viewed by CSOs and their members as part of a strategic and systematic plan to weaken their operations ahead of the 2021 elections.
Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity views the ongoing persecution and closure of NGOs in Uganda as a violation of the trust between Government and civil society, which serves as the true voice of the people. These actions by government officials represent a purposeful attempt to silence organizations upholding government accountability in matters of democracy and governance and this interferes with fundamental rights and freedoms. 54 Ugandan NGOs have been closed and the number threatens to grow if the Ugandan Government is allowed to continue its arbitrary persecution of these organizations.
We are calling on the UN, AU, EU, EAC, and other international partners and well-wishers to put pressure on the Government of Uganda to stop the persecution of NGOs. These organizations serve to empower communities across the country and represent the faith that the Ugandan people have in a better democratic future for themselves and their country.