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Uganda suspends 54 NGOs

August 20, 2021

A clampdown on civil society in Uganda has led to the suspension of 54 NGOs. A variety of interest groups have been affected by this latest move.

Photo of Nicholas Opiyo, director of the prominent rights group Chapter Four
Nicholas Opiyo, director of the prominent rights group Chapter Four, has confirmed the government order to shut down indefinitelyImage: CHAPTER FOUR UGANDA/REUTERS

Ugandan authorities have halted the operations of 54 non-governmental organizations for alleged non-compliance. A variety of groups have been affected by government's move. The suspensions are being seen as an effort to tighten control over civil society.

The interest groups range from rights groups to religious, environmental and electoral advocacy organizations.

Why has the Ugandan government taken action?

Uganda's National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO Bureau) which falls under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said that the organizations had not complied with the NGO Act.

Of the 54 NGOs, it said that 23 had expired permits, while the bureau said 15 had not filed annual returns. Others are alleged to have failed to register with authorities.

Prominent rights group among the affected groups

Rights group Chapter Four has been ordered to suspend operations. The group's executive Director Nicholas Opiyo confirmed government's indefinite suspension. His organization is accused of failing to file returns and non-disclosure of funds. 

He posted a receipt on Twitter appearing to show paid annual returns with a clearly visible government stamp, dated January 11, 2021. 

Opiyo said he was deeply concerned with government's order to close and said: "We encourage the authorities to urgently resolve this situation to enable Chapter Four to commence operations again."

Authorities arrested Opiyo in December 2020 for alleged money laundering. To date, despite a number of court appearances, the government has yet to produce any evidence to support the charge.

The European Union along with the United States and a number of international donors protested Opiyo's arrest.

Rapper-turned-politician Bobi Wine pictured surrounded by Ugandan police
At least 54 people were killed in protests following the arrest of opposition politician Bobi Wine in November 2020Image: Abubaker Lubowa/REUTERS

Some of the groups who have been ordered to shut down were closely monitoring election results in an operation which resulted in a raid by security forces and a number of arrests. President Yoweri Museveni ultimately won an election campaign fraught with violence and the arrest of opposition figures.

At least 54 people were killed in November in protests over the arrest of Museveni's main political opponent, rapper-turned-politician Bobi Wine.

The suspensions of the NGOs will take place with immediate effect and will be enforced according to the NGO Bureau.

kb/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)