Civil Society Up In Arms Against New Government Control

1734 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOS) in the country are up in arms against new plans by government to impose on them more restrictive measures.

The groups say the NGO bill if passed in its current form will stifle operations civil society and most especially those pushing against corruption.
The Non-Governmental Organisations Bill published in April this year is currently before Parliament's Committee of Defense and Internal Affairs.
The NGOs both local and International describe the bill as repressive and it would severely curb Ugandans basic rights.
The Bill among other clauses grants internal affairs minister and the National Board for Non-governmental Organisations broad powers to supervise, approve, inspect, and dissolve Non-Governmental Organizations and community based organizations.
 It introduces severe restrictions including a  jail term for individuals working on behalf of NGOs.
 Maria Burnett a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch says the  inclusion of jail term as one of the punishments for individuals would tantamount to double punishment.
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The bill provides for the formation of the NGO Board with powers to make decisions on the formation, existence and dissolution of any NGO that they decide to close.
James Muhindo a lawyer with Global Rights Alert says that the powers of the NGO board need to be reduced and should be subjected to judicial review.
He says if the bill is passed in its current state it will curtail the freedom of association and assembly of NGOs which will interfere with their advocacy activities and would make them government organisations.
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Cissy Kagaba the Executive Director Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda Watch says the intention of government is to silence them pointing out the issues that the ordinary Ugandan may not.
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The NGO's want the NGO Board to be independent and report to parliament as opposed to the ministry of Internal Affairs as the bill suggests.
Nicholas Opiyo the Executive Director Chapter Four Uganda says they would rather be under the Ministry of Finance or Gender, Labour and Social development given the enormous social and economic support they give to government.
He asks government not to take the support of NGOs for granted.
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Opiyo asks members of parliament not to pass laws as a way of looking for support for their campaigns because the same laws will affect them once they leave parliament.