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News from Central

Non Governmental Organisations held under siege

Non-governmental Organizations in Uganda that challenged the amendment of the 1995 Constitution to remove the age limit clause as a requirement of the person running for the presidency in Uganda were attacked and their accounts frozen hence curtailing their operations.

On 20th September 2017, Uganda police raided and laid siege at premises of two Non Government Organizations (NGOs). Action Aid International Uganda (AAIU) and Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS). This incident happened after these organization among others become critical of the proposal to amend the Constitution to remove the age limits as one of the requirements for someone to stand as a presidential candidate. The NGOs were concerned that removing this clause will give the current president a chance to run for office and deny Uganda a chance to have a peaceful transition of power. It also would go against the spirit of the president having the right age to man the office of the president. This happened on the backdrop that the current president by 2021 would be above the considered age and if this clause remains in the Constitution it will prevent them

The police/military raid was conducted on their office premises in Kabalagala, Kampala, which were cordoned off and staff held at office up to midnight. Some were interrogated others taken into Police for questioning. Equipment like mobile phones, computers (laptops) and their email server were taken for further investigations.

In the after math of this raid, five of Action Aids accounts were closed on the allegation that Action Aid was funding members of the public and Parliament to express dissenting views against the current government, money laundering among others. The accounts remained frozen until February 2018.

While the initial freezing of accounts was sanctioned by Bank of Uganda (BoU) who had received a letter from Criminal Investigations Department (CID), an arm of the Police, saying that Action Aid was suspected of money laundering, fraud and other financial crimes, and were compelled to act as they carried out investigations. Bank of Uganda (BOU) after investigations wrote to Standard Chartered bank requesting them to unfreeze the accounts of Action Aid. These accounts remained frozen on the instructions of Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) a government organ instituted to regulated NGO’s in Uganda on fraud compliance, on the allegations that Action Aid had not registered with Financial Intelligence Authority yet. Even after Action Aid has submitted registration forms, there has been no action taken to unfreeze their accounts and no plausible explanation given as to why this is the case. There is an apparent lack of capacity for the FIT to roll out the implementation of the Act.