KAMPALA – Civil Society leaders in Uganda have said that they are deeply troubled as the sector about the growing smear campaign, saying that it is engineered to undermine their credibility and deep commitment to improving the welfare of all Ugandans.
“We strongly believe that nation building is a collective effort with each sector bringing their expertise and experience to the service of the nation. As a sector, we have complemented the efforts of government literally in all sectors wherever there is improvement to talk about,” they said in a statement seen by this website.
Over the last two weeks, the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) has accused a number of NGOs of financing terrorism activities.
Commenting on the matter, the leaders said that these allegations are not only grave but are also faceless and without basis.
“Upon these unfounded allegations, the FIA issued extrajudicial orders to halt bank transactions on accounts of a number of organizations. This action does not only affect these organizations, it also affects many Ugandans who benefit from the work and services these and many other organizations do.”
“We are fully conscious that these accusations are intended to delegitimize our work, blackmail us and make us look bad in the eyes of the citizens that we serve. We are also mindful that this is not an isolated incident but a cascading of systematic and deliberate actions by the regime to clamp down on fundamental freedoms and citizens’ organizing,” added.
They, however, said that “no amount of intimidation and false accusations can deter us from playing our civic responsibility as provided for in Article 38(2) of the Constitution of Uganda.”
They say that they have witnessed increased attacks on NGOs and other citizens’ organizations, attacks on media houses and journalists and on citizens and pro-democracy activists and as well as “increased attacks on NGOs and other citizens’ organizations.”
“As you are all aware, in October 2020, the National Bureau for NGOs disrupted the work of NEW-U, a platform of NGOs engaged in the monitoring of 2021 elections. Ugandans may recall that this trend has been escalating since 2010 where security agencies attacked and disrupted the work of Black Monday anticorruption work and the Free and Fair Elections Campaign, among others.”
They added that in 2017, security agencies raided offices of a number of organizations and halted operations of their bank account. “At no point did these agencies provide any credible information regarding the allegations levelled on these organizations.”
In the recent case, operations of accounts of Uganda National NGO Forum and Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) and the FIA is seeking the acquiescence of the Director of Public Prosecution to freeze the accounts on account of these “faceless and baseless allegations.”
Attacks on citizens and pro-democracy activists
They have also accused Uganda of holding an election in an “unprecedented environment characterized by the COVID-19 pandemic and extrajudicial killings of citizens on our streets.”
“While these kinds of attacks may not be new, the escalation and impunity with which they are being carried out is unprecedented. It is also unfortunate that top government officials have condoned these actions. The unfortunate statements by General Elly Tumwine – Minister for Security in Uganda in which he affirmed that the army and police will kill Ugandans is a clear declaration of war on Ugandans who are desirous of participating in choosing their leaders at all levels. That the only reaction of President Museveni is to suggest that his government will compensate families that lost loved ones is not only unfortunate but also indecorous of a leader.”
Attacks on media houses and journalists
The leaders say they have observed with concern the brutal actions of police and other security personnel against journalists covering the campaign trail while some RDCs and DPCs have arbitrarily stopped radio stations from hosting opposition presidential candidates.
In addition, they say international journalists have either been deported, denied accreditation or are being asked to reapply for accreditation.
“These attacks are intended to deny citizens access to information that is essential to enabling them make informed choices.”
“We have also observed the continuous misuse of our state machinery and infrastructure including our armed forces, our police force, our intelligence services, our NGO Bureau and our FIA to constrain civic expression and instill fear in the majority of citizens. We believe that it is our civic duty to speak out against these excesses and call upon all Ugandans to challenge the escalating repression,” they said.
These have called upon the government to exercise maximum restraint and to revert to their mandate as enshrined in the Constitution Uganda.
They also called upon Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanya to step forward and offer leadership to parliament to confront this assault on the rule of law.
“We call upon our religious leaders to step up and speak up against the apparent excesses of the regime and all political actors. Ugandans are engaged in a struggle for justice, rule of law, constitutionalism and equal opportunity. Maintaining silence or purporting to be neutral can only amount to acquiescence to the injustice at hand.”