Bunyoro CSOs shocked over freezer of NGO Forum finances

Omukama Iguru, Omugo Karunga and the royal family during a Royal Christmas Carols service at St Peter's COU Cathedral Duhaga, in Hoima city.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in Bunyoro sub-region have expressed concern over government’s action to freeze bank accounts of the National NGO Forum of Uganda and the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) on accusations of financing terrorism.

 The CSOs say the claims against the two organisations are indirectly against more than 500 organisations that subscribe to National NGO Forum alongside the partner organisation of UWONET.

At a press conference in Hoima city, Mr Paul Mulindwa, the Executive Director for Kitara Civil Society Organisations’ Network (KCSON) said the government move cripples efforts of community empowerment economically and all efforts geared towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

He added that the move also frustrates the entire democratisation process in the country especially at this time of political campaigns ahead of the 2121 general elections.

“Some of our organisations are supported by the NGO Forum for instance KCSON under democratic governance projects. It means once their accounts are frozen, we shall not be able to get funding. There are many organisations like us,” said Mr Mulindwa.

He asked government to expedite the investigations into the allegations against the two organisations to ensure that they resume their services that are already missing in the country.

However, Mr Mulindwa said he finds no trouble with the law taking its course in case they provide substantial evidence that the accused organisations are linked to terrorism financing.

“For all the time I have worked with the National NGO Forum, I have never seen any dubious campaign as government claims. The claims indirectly link all of us to the allegations since we have been working together. The sources of information I know include the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) and Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) which also fund government institutions,” he said.

Mr Mulindwa said until investigations substantially link the two organisations to terrorism, the CSOs in Bunyoro will continue hoping the seizure to the finances is politically motivated basing on the recent interception of the formation of the National Election Observers Network.

The two organisations championed the mobilisation of the organisations to create a coalition focused to see free and fair election and in depended observers.

Mr Benon Tusingiwire, the Executive Director for Navigators of Development Organisation (NAVODA) said any attack on the National NGO Forum frustrates leadership of the entire civil society fraternity since the forum plays a leadership role.

“The allegations taint the image of all CSOs in Uganda since that is the coordinating body. We cannot expect easy funding amid such claims,” he said.

According to him, the move affects the income and employment of thousands of people who were working directly with the two organisations and those that subscribe to them.

Mr Tusingwire added that it is not the first time to see such allegations but independent investigations have exonerated the civil society fraternity.

He said CSOs need freedom as soon as possible to be able to play their role during this election period or else the public and international community might not trust the results of the January 14, 2020 general election.

In December 11, 2020, the Uganda government’s Financial Intelligence Authority decided to freeze the bank accounts of the National NGO Forum and UWONET accusing them of financing terrorism in Uganda.

Like elsewhere in the world, most NGOs in Uganda are engaged in activities that once positively done, help the government to achieve its international mandate of driving the SDGs or agenda 2030.

Their activities include environmental conservation, human and peoples’ rights, handcraft and vocational skills, education, gender mainstreaming and governance among others.

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