On the 28th of May, the Ministry of Internal Affairs wrote to the Advocates Coalition for Environment and Development, one of Uganda’s largest non-governmental organizations inviting them for a meeting to discuss their activities “as an NGO”. The meeting was slated on June 1st according to the letter originated for the Permanent Secretary. ACODE ,one of the “ring leaders”,of the NGO community had earlier learnt its financial records were being probed by surprisingly the Central Bank.
These correspondences perhaps reveal in some detail the direction of what many Ugandan NGO’s fear is a widespread effort to limit their freedom to operate. On Thursday this week it was revealed 38 NGO’s were threatened with de-registration. Now new information suggests the list is long [In all fairness there are a ton of NGO’s operating in Uganda]. The list is now 41 says a source while an additional list of 100 more has apparently been separately prepared for continual review. The ACODE letters show that the Ministry of Internal Affairs looked to technical flaws in the affairs of the organization. ACODE was asked to produce by the 1st of June its work plans, budgets, minutes of its AGM etc. Upon their review the official response from the Uganda National NGO board channels some of what many I have interviewed said was the concern of the government. See for yourself.NGO Board response
Suffice to say that the shakedown of NGO’s will have the “self censorship” effect with many staying away from “political subjects”. An apology published last week by the Uganda Land Alliance to Hon. Hilary Onek shows that this pressure is producing results. It is early to forecast the long term scenarios yet but considering the particular interest taken on NGO’s advocating in the oil sector (Hilary Onek the Minister of Internal Affairs was previously the controversial energy minister who presided over the contentious capital gains tax dispute as well as the attempted “hostile takeover” by Italy’s Eni. The latter led to corruption allegations against him and others where he was asked to step aside), this episode will be the first major move to place limits on oil related advocacy. There may be a conflict of interest if the minister is acting against NGO’s that may be asking for greater accountability from the period he was the head of the energy ministry especially since an investigation is yet to be completed by Parliament. And yes there is the fight by the other Ministry of Ethics and Integrity on the on again, off again issue of homosexuality in Uganda.