Last year we reported that Uganda’s Parliament had passed the NGO Bill, a repressive piece of anti civil society (non-profit organization) legislation. We now have word that on January 30, of this year, President Yoweri Museveni in fact signed this into law, and now the onerous NGO Act of 2016, is open to publication and implementation, at great risk to all organizations that do not meet with the government’s approval.
According to local Ugandan human rights groups- ” this law is not good news for organizations working on matters concerning groups like LGBTI persons, sex workers and other marginalized groups.” In fact upon analysis, this Act is so repressive, that almost any organization can easily run foul of its terms, thereby providing the Museveni dictatorial government, known for its oppression of democratic principles and human rights abuses, with power tools to exacerbate their grip over the country. This anti NGO law could have the impact of limiting or shutting down the work of all organizations which support, advance and assist in all areas of human rights and even development.
Analysts at HRAPF note from the Act that: “Section 44 on special obligations and its imposition of obligations “not to do anything prejudicial to the security of Uganda and to the interests and dignity of Ugandans” is so vague and ambiguous that it can be used as an excuse to close down any organization.” That means the very organization that protect Ugandans from human rights abuses, assault on democracy, anti- gay milieus, and even lawyers who provide assistance through such organizations, can be summarily shut down.
Equally problematic is section 30 which provides that an organization can be denied registration if its objectives are “in contravention of the laws of Uganda.” This may appear to be a fair consideration. However what about unjust laws or laws which could be found to be unconstitutional. This will effectively shut down all LGBT organizations from the registration process because of the Penal Codes which are interpreted to outlaw homosexuality.
According to HRAPF: “These provisions on their own would be enough to water down the many gains that civil society made when most of the CSO proposals were incorporated in the Bill that was passed. Section 2 of the Act requires the Minister to appoint a commencement date by statutory instrument. If this is not yet done, it may be done soon. The respite that we can have here if the statutory instrument is not yet out is to engage the Minister to delay the publication of the date. The possibility of challenging the wide and undefined provisions in court also always remains an option that should be explored. We should not let this law go unchallenged.”
We cannot stress enough how dangerous this law is. And what makes it worse is that Museveni has just been re elected, through what many believe to be a rigged and fraudulent election process, extending his 30 year reign over Uganda. (See articles below)
The impetus for this anti NGO law, it is believed, derived from the Ugandan government’s desire to ‘control’ and deflect any Western influence on the country, which it perceives as happening through grants and support from Western grantors to such organizations, many of which address human rights issues and serve the most marginalized in Uganda.
As I noted in my prior article back in November last year: “The government of Uganda, demonizing its NGO’s as agents of foreign governments, has long feared and sought ways to silence what it perceives as outside influence from Western countries. Indeed foreign governmental aid, foundations and donors provide funding for the operations and programs of NGO’s, thereby assisting in the issues that NGO’s pursue.” My earlier article can be read HERE.
Warning: Every organization operating in Uganda, in association with organizations in Uganda, sending funds to Uganda, placing resources in the hands of Ugandans must re evaluate their positions considering the new NGO ACT of 2016 – or alternatively immediately support those who will challenge this law before publication and implementation. For obvious reasons the window of opportunity is very small.
Here is the analysis that HRAPF did when this law had just been passed. It discusses some of the challenges that these few provisions pose. READ HERE.
ELECTIONS AND ALLEGATIONS OF FRAUD and INTIMIDATION: