Inside meeting that “loosened” Museveni stance on DGF suspension

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President Museveni on Wednesday announced he had finally agreed to lift the suspension he had imposed on the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) last year.

Museveni in January last year directed the suspension of the activities of DGF, the largest pool of donor funding to non-governmental organisations in Uganda which is financed by Denmark, Ireland, Austria, UK, Sweden, Norway, and the European Union to facilitate equitable growth, poverty eradication, rule of law and long-term stability in the country.

On Wednesday, he announced he had finally lifted the suspension.

“Today, I hosted the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation. We discussed a number of bilateral issues. I also agreed to lift the ban on Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), to run till December 2022, with Government represented in the decision-making structures,”Museveni said in a tweet.

The  Presidential Press Unit further substantiated the development saying it followed a meeting at State Lodge , Nakasero.

“The president's promise came following an appeal by Hon. Mortensen and the Danish Ambassador who said that the project has only six months left to elapse. The President said he would formally communicate the position to the relevant government departments,” the statement said in part.

The development came on the backdrop of several meetings between the president and development partners over the need to have the suspension on the activities of DGF lifted .

Following the suspension of its activities, DGF told partners last year that development partners were involved in a “constructive dialogue” with government to solve the impasse.

“This is to provide you with a brief update on the situation of the DGF. A series of meetings have been held over the last weeks between our development partners and government counterparts and this constructive dialogue will continue also going forward,” Nicole Bjerler, the DGF head in Uganda told their partners in February last year, a month after suspension of their activities.

Final meeting

The Nile Post has said that whereas several meetings had been held between government and development partners and all agreed that it was necessary to have DGF’s suspension lifted, President Museveni was still not yet convinced about the same.

He therefore held the key to the lifting of the suspension and this would only happen if he had been convinced enough.

On Wednesday, a delegation, mainly from Denmark was hosted by Museveni at State Lodge in Nakasero and key on the agenda was the issue of DGF suspension.

The delegation led by the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation, Flemming Miller Mortensen also included Nicolaj Hejberg, the Danish Ambassador to Uganda and his deputy who is also the head of cooperation at the embassy, Henrik Jespersen among other guests.

The group told the president that they were focused on further enhancing ties between the Nordic countries and Uganda as well as Africa at large.

“First we went to Northern Uganda to visit refugee and host community projects. Thank you for yourself and government for the actions you are doing in a very humane way,” Flemming told the meeting which also had government officials.

He added that there is a big interest by Danish private companies in coming and investing in Uganda

“They see opportunities here together with your companies.”

In response, Museveni said,” Tell them they are very welcome. When they come to Uganda, there is local market, East Africa and African market and Europe itself, US, Chinese etc. There is a lot of potential here.”

With such sweet words of  promising investment into the country, the delegation from Denmark and Danish embassy in Uganda had triggered Museveni and were ready to announce the main issue of their visit.

The Danish Minister for Development Cooperation then asked the president to comment about the issue of lifting the suspension on DGF.

“The issues were simple and clear. The main issue was sovereignty especially for politics. What we didn’t want was foreign interference in our politics. The issue was that you can propose where you want to spend. Money could come through private channels like NGOs but with the knowledge of government and we had no objection to any of them. I wanted this to be put in writing and agreement signed,”Museveni responded.

The meeting was also told by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Vincent Bagiire that government made proposals to the effect that Ugandan ministers be allowed to  sit on the board of DGF in a bid to help in evaluation and knowing which projects are to be funded.

He also noted that government wants its senior officials on DGF’s steering committee but also a facility management unit to facilitate a number of Ugandans to ensure the aspect sovereignty is guaranteed, noting that the proposals were put in writing to development partners.

The head of the Danish delegation said the development partners said they have accepted all the proposals but noted one key aspect remained unclear.

He explained that the requirement for government to look into and clear every partner in form of NGOs who is part of DGF was a tall order since the program was left with only six months to end.

“The problem is that we have a new request .We have been met with a new request that all new partners met with no objection. The problem is that the program is running out in six months. We have last payments soon and in September and October all agreements are to be terminated,” Flemming told Museveni, asking him to loosen up on this particular issue.

Speaking in response, Museveni accepted the request and said “since this is not the end of the world” government can loosen up on the requirement.

“This is a new demand and we can compromise on it.  I will tell them(government) to ignore it since this is not the end of the world. Even if there are bad people(NGOs) who get the money, this will be their last. Tactically, I will lift the suspension. This will not be end of the world and in future we shall harmonise closely. I pledge to the minister who has come to see me that we will lift the suspension,” he said.

“You said it is ending in December! I will have my calendar marked.”

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