By Our Reporter

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have challenged government to produce evidence that back up claims that the Uganda National NGO-Forum and Uganda Women Network (UWONET) are financing terrorism activities in the country.

Addressing journalists at a joint press conference in Ntinda on Sunday, the CSOs said government has previously closed various NGO offices without proof.

 “…You cannot claim that the NGO Forum and UWONET were involved in terrorism and leave the leaders to move freely on the streets. Terrorists cannot be left to move freely on the streets because it would put the lives of people in danger,” Godber Tumushabe, an associate director at the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, said.

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. 

Sources privy to the investigations say the four have been on surveillance for some time over their alleged links and “friendliness” to the Opposition political parties.

According to the December 10 letter, from the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), addressed to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the authority decided to freeze accounts of the organisations for allegedly funding terrorism.

Ten bank accounts belonging to NGO-forum and 10 accounts of UWONET held in various banks have since been frozen, affecting their operations.

Nicholas Opiyo, the executive director of Chapter 4 Uganda, said the matter has already been put before his office.

 “We protest against the actions of the State and we think they are doing this out of panic given the heated up political season in the country. The DPP is a very reasonable person and we urge her to act based on facts,” Opiyo said. “We shall use both legal and non-legal means to challenge these allegations,” he added.

Sarah Bireete, the Executive Director of Centre for Constitutional Governance, said President Museveni should ask his officers to recall the statement because an attack on UWONET is an attack on all women.

Works affected due to freezing of accounts

According to the Chairperson of UWONET Tezira Jamwa, activities affected are activities related to the elections of women and youth ahead of the general polls in January.  She said they have had to suspend a number of their meetings after their accounts were frozen.

“This action has and will continue to affect the operation of UWONET generally but specifically activities that were ongoing for the benefit of our targeted groups especially women and girls including the activities for the 126 days of activism to end gender based violence and trainings of women candidates in various districts,” Jamwa said in a letter dated December 12.

Opiyo on the other hand said that salaries of people employed in these organisations will be impacted as well as the payments for suppliers.

At the same press conference, CSOs criticized the government’s move of registering journalists afresh who want to cover the forthcoming elections saying the time left is small to cover all journalists across the country.

 Xavier Ejoyi, Country Director of Action Aid said that an attack on NGOs by the government and journalists is aimed at intimidating them from observing and covering the forthcoming elections.

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