Some of the NGOs that government last week announced suspended have said they are being witch-hunted.
On Friday, government announced it had halted the activities of 54 Non- Governmental Organisations for among other reasons, not submitting annual returns.
However, in a statement released over the weekend, the African Institute for Energy Governance(AFIEGO) said the only targeted NGOs critical to government.
“AFIEGO takes note of the fact that seven of the organisations whose operations the NGO Bureau says that it has halted are AFIEGO’s partners. AFIEGO and its partners have been targeted because they play key human as well as environmental rights protection roles in the oil and gas sector. The organisations also hold government accountable with neither fear nor favour,” the NGO said in a statement.
According to AFIEGO, many of those NGOs labeled as critical to government have always been targeted with threats of deregistration, freezing of their bank accounts, arrests and office raids among others.
Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies’ Godber Tumushabe reiterated the same comments of witch-hunt by government.
“We maintain the (NGO) Bureau is used once again to perpetuate political and administrative harassment of our organization. We will be seeking clarity from URSB,”Tumushabe said.
Youth Line Forum, another suspended NGO insisted that they were surprised by government’s decision to suspend their activities despite meeting all the requirements.
“We are a law abiding entity, operating under and abiding by the laws of the Republic of Uganda. We have a track record of calling upon NGOs to comply with state regulation as they push back and reclaim their Civic Space. As a matter of fact, we are currently supporting 300 organizations nationwide to synchronize their operations with the law,” Youth Line Forum said.
“Youth Line Forum has been filing its Annual Returns, has a permit to operate that is still valid, has incorporated with URSB and Registered with the Financial Intelligence Authority.”
The NGO said that whereas they appeared on the list of 54 NGOs whose activities had been suspended by government, they have not formally been informed of the same decision.
“We state categorically that even when we have not received an official letter of closure from the Bureau to this effect but we are dedicated to diplomatic and lawful means of resolving matters in all our operations. “
We commit to continuously engage the NGO Bureau, Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) and all relevant government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to find a lasting solution to this impasse. We are confident that our track record and evidence of compliance will help us sail through the turbulent waters.”
Chapter Four Executive Director, Nicholas Opiyo said they had been notified of the indefinite suspension of their permit but said they would engage government over the same.
“We are working with the authorities to clarify what we believe is a misunderstanding. We shall be writing to the National Bureau for NGOs reminding them of this and other documents filed with them and other authorities in January this year including audited accounts and source of funding among others,” Opiyo said.
Following the suspension of the 54 NGOs, it remains to be seen what will happen to their staff and projects they have been doing or funding.