NGOs, stakeholders initiate talks with gov’t over closed NGOs

By Male Deogratius Civil society organizations led by the Education Advocacy with a Difference Platform (EAWAD) have embarked on a campaign to dialogue and engage with the government bodies responsible for registering and regulating Non-Government Organisation in abide to ensure a good working environment and lift of suspension and closure of the 54 Non Government Organizations NGOs in Uganda,

NGOs, stakeholders initiate talks with gov’t over closed NGOs

Speaking during the High Level Advocacy meeting at Fairway hotel, Patrick Kaboyo, The Technical advisor for the EAWADS said that they have embarked on a journey that will help all the stakeholders to understand each other, collaborate together and have fairness and clear understanding of the matters before decisions are made.

Kaboyo is optimistic that dialogue will soften government’s heart and lift the suspension and closure of the NGOs.

“We have started a journey to ensure government sits on a round table to listen to the closed NGOs and reopen them. We shall table the report from this dialogue before officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs for redress,”Kaboyo said.

Hon. Anthony Esenu, the Member of Parliament for Kapelebyong County in Soroti district advised NGOs to learn the art of engaging and working with government instead of bashing them all the time.

“Government is not there to discourage or fight NGOS that are pro development because it has a keen interest in development as well thus it welcomes partnership from private sectors and non-government organizations. I request that the NGOs break the spirit of thinking that the government is witchhaunting them but rather learn the art and skills of engaging with it, strictly follow the law, rules and regulations that are in place.” Said Esenu

“In case of misunderstandings and over acting from one side they should sit and explore means of solving the problem. Keep involving government in their work to avoid collision but instead create collaboration and confidence. When you bash government it will also perceive you as its enemy not as partners since they presume you’re working for their downfall.” He added

Norman Tumuhimbise, The national coordinator for the Alternative Movement expressed concern over what he termed as mistrust within government actors and the power that be.

“The problem is that the system is running under one person that’s the fountain of honor who is always lied to and feed with wrong information right, left and center hence he ends up acting on falsehood. That method of work makes people to loose trust in the power that be and to build it again it takes those with authority to take a deliberate change in the way of doing things.” Said Norman

Norman, however didn’t rule out the fact that there might be some NGOs that engage in illegal and dubious activities which he said should be brought to book using the right procedures.

In the same way, Michael Aboneka,  a human rights defender and lawyer who gave the key note address expressed concern over the level at which the state is abusing the right to dissent which is key in development and democracy.

He asserts that suffocating dissenting voices kills the freedom of speech and expression in addition the demand for accountability.

Aboneka also tasked government to produce evidence that implicate the closed NGOs if they engaged in any subversive activities as opposed to making false accusation against them.

Aboneka further called for the rule of law and independency of the agencies before questioning the person that took the decision to close and suspend the 54 NGOs yet there is no board in place at the NGO bureau.

The meeting comes at a time when there is a rise in restrictions on the rights to opinion, association and assembly in Uganda on NGOs that do accountability work. NGOs also perceive government to be using the Anti-money laundering Act 2013 under the Financial Intelligence Authority to restrict NGOs and their leaders with the recent being the closure of 54 NGOs in August this year over what they termed as noncompliance