What’s happening? Lawmakers in Uganda’s parliament are debating a bill that if passed into law would limit the work of NGOs in the country.
One of the bill’s clauses, stating that NGOs must not engage activity “contrary to the dignity of the people of Uganda” is particularly open to interpretation. The bill assigns the power to inspect and shut down an organisation to the Ugandan authorities. If an NGO decided to operate without a permit, it would risk jail sentences of up to eight years for directors.
Former opposition leader Kizza Besigye said the trigger for the bill was NGOs demanding electoral reforms ahead of next year’s general election.
Who would be affected?
NGOs working on controversial issues such as oil, land ownership and corruption fear the bill would restrict their work. LGBT rights groups are also concerned, as they have been previously plagued by legislation, that their work will be attacked.
“It undermines the very cause for which we exist and the very cause to which we remain committed, in terms of overcoming injustice and poverty,” said country director of Oxfam Uganda, Peter Kamalingin. Executive director of the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda Cissy Kagaba said NGOs would start to self-censor.
Human Rights Watch said that in the run-up to the elections the country needs more not less democratic space.
Operating in Uganda:
NGOs and civil society organisations are highly active in Uganda, providing services and campaigning for greater democracy. President Yoweri Museveni, in power for 28 years, continues to “curtail freedom of expression, assembly, and association, among other basic rights,” according to Human Rights Watch. This bill is only the latest in several pieces of legislation, such as the Public Order Management Act, that are restricting the scope of organisations. The UK Foreign Office advises against travel to districts on the border with Kenya.
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SOURCE: The Guardian, 02/09/2015, http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015...