Uganda outlaws thousands of NGOs running ‘unscrupulous operations’

 Uganda’s state minister for internal Affairs
Uganda’s state minister for internal Affairs, Mario Obiga Kania

Uganda’s interior minister Mario Obiga Kania ordered some 12,000 non-governmental organizations to shut down their operations immediately, after they missed a re-registration deadline.

It is reported that only 2,000 (mostly foreign) NGOs, managed to renew their licenses before the year-long exercise wound up in September.

What that meant is that, up to 73 percent of the aid organizations, failed to register, the vast majority believed to be operated by Ugandans.

While the Ugandan interior minister justified the need to weed out entities carrying out so-called “unscrupulous operations”, critics denounced the re-registration scheme as a crackdown on civil society organizations.

“This comes nearly one year to the 2021 elections, so if they start closing NGOs, then, there is problem”, warns Ugandan journalist Damali Mukhaye.

She is the author of a leading article on the NGOs’ saga published for the Kampala-based Daily Monitor newspaper.

Mukhaye told RFI, that memories of government raids on the offices of some NGOs, suspected of raising resources abroad to fund the activities of some political leaders, are still very fresh in Ugandan minds.

“They were suspected of raising resources from abroad to fund local leaders like Bobi Wine and their protests”, she recalls.

“That is why they came up to regulate and see which ones can be wiped out of the market”, Mukhaye said.

Meanwhile, Uganda’s point man overseeing the operation rubbishes the allegations, claiming “it is just to get rid of dormant and non-existent NGOs”.

“They were given a time frame to come and declare that they are operating, since some may have closed down quietly, without us knowing”, explains Stephen Okello, executive director of Uganda’s national bureau of NGOs.

Okello told RFI that the validation exercise was all the more important, because it is the very first to take place in the country in 30 years.

The NGOs’ chief also reiterated, that his office is mandated by the law to establish and maintain a register of all the organizations operating in the field.

During the exercise, 2,118 NGOs, out of a total of 14,207 registered, were cleared to continue operations.

Stephen Okello also holds that there’s still a little room for late comers.

This was despite the interior minister’s order to the police, hotels and the Financial Intelligence Authority to “ensure that unregistered NGOs do not transact business anywhere in the country”.

“What the minister meant, is that they shouldn’t find you operating without a license”, he said.

Okello also pointed out that “agencies capable of proving in what capacity they are working in the field, can still come forward and register”.

“It is up to the organizations to know how much the measures affect them and how much they should take it seriously”, the executive director of Uganda’s national bureau of NGOs stated.

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