By Peter Ssebulime
Kampala: In December 2020, the government of Uganda through the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) ordered the freezing of bank accounts of at least four Civil Society Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) involved in good governance and election observation in the country.
This website through its primary and trustable sources established that the four were on surveillance for some time over their alleged links and “friendliness” to the opposition political parties mostly the National Unity Platform something that continued to give the ruling party sleepless nights.
On several occasions ever since then, Civil Society activists have been condemning the government’s decision to freeze the accounts of CSOs including Uganda Women’s Network-UWONET and Uganda National-NGO Forum on allegations of financing terrorism.
Now, the US Embassy in Uganda through Ambassador Natalie E. Brown has also joined other international organizations, CSOs, and democratic activists to condemn the government’s continuous blockage of the above CSOs’ accounts saying this is a barrier to free, fair, and credible elections in Uganda.
Ambassador Natalie’s condemnation is addressed through a statement reading thus;
“The U.S. government remains concerned over disturbing signs that civic space is closing. With the election only days away, restrictions on civil society organizations (CSOs), delayed accreditation of domestic observers by the Electoral Commission, and interference with non-partisan voter education programming funded by Uganda’s international democratic partners have raised serious concerns about Uganda’s preparedness for a transparent, inclusive election.
Today we remain particularly concerned over how Ugandan institutions continue to block the bank accounts of several reputable and well-known CSOs, on questionable bases, preventing their important work on voter education, domestic election observation, public dialogues, and tracking and preventing election-related violence. These are globally accepted non-partisan elections activities funded by the U.S., the European Union, and other international partners who are merely supporting the Ugandan people in living up to their own constitutionally mandated election standards.
The continued blocking of these accounts has significantly limited the ability of these CSOs to contribute to the conduct of free, fair, and peaceful elections in Uganda, a goal that the United States shares with the Ugandan people. Civil society plays a key role in the electoral process, and every effort should be made to facilitate its work.
For nearly 60 years, the United States has worked directly with Uganda and its people to support development, promote regional peace, improve the health of citizens, and strengthen the democratic principles and institutions needed to sustain social and economic growth. Moreover, the United States also works indirectly with Uganda in a very significant way as the largest contributor to the World Bank; the United Nations; the International Monetary Fund; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and other multilateral organizations.
As longstanding friends and partners, we are troubled by the signs of closing political space, including the blocking of bank accounts of Ugandan civil society organizations working for the benefit of the Ugandan people.
As the United States’ history and current events make clear, democracy cannot be taken for granted. It must be nurtured, developed, and defended. The civil society organizations whose bank accounts have been frozen do just that. So, in the spirit of friendship and partnership that have marked relations between the United States and Uganda for decades, I urge the responsible authorities to ensure that expeditious due process is completed so that these organizations, which are helping the Ugandan people move closer to enjoying truly free, fair, and transparent elections, can carry out their work.
We stand with all Ugandans who seek to deepen democracy and advance prosperity for all.”