The Ugandan government has issued a directive to Resident District Commissioners across the country to closely monitor activities of all Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operating in their areas of jurisdiction and report accordingly.
The directive is embedded in a circular from the Ministry of Internal Affairs signed by the Minister General Aronda Nyakairima. It is copied to all Resident District Commissioners-RDCs and Chief Administrative Officers-CAOs.
General Aronda Nyakairima says the move follows public concern on the negative operations of some NGOs in the country.
He further notes that government has opted to utilize services of RDCs and the CAOs in response to prior information by volunteers regarding sinister activities of some NGOs’ which are unknown to the NGO board.
Simon Peter Nabendeh, the Bulambuli Resident District Commissioner says the move is to ensure some hostile NGOs are purged.
Nabendeh claims that government has reports to the effect that some NGOs have been funding the activities of some political organizations against the government. Without listing any, Nabendeh says government wants to get rid of such NGOs.
Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo, the State Minister for Ethics and Integrity says some NGOs submit to government very good activity work plans, but contradict government agenda in execution of their duties.
However, civil society officials and human rights activists fear the directive could be one of the ways that government want to use to silence critics and erode civil society.
An official from CARDNO, a contractor implementing a USAID funded project ‘Strengthening Decentralization for Sustainability –SDS program, says the directive would hamper the operations of NGOs in Uganda.
The official who declined to be named for fear of being victimized says this is rather restrictive than facilitative in championing the development agenda.
Another official working with the Mbale based ‘Action for Hunger’ NGO says ultimately they fear that the directive may render it very difficult for NGOs, who provide critical analysis and checks and balances for the sitting government to function properly. He says that it could also lead to a dwindling number of civil society organizations
He says this will eventually be detrimental to allowing the voice and free expressions of the population living in rural and remote areas to be heard.
NGOs are currently registered and regulated by the National NGO Board, a quasi-government body, but the government has little power to restrain NGOs from voicing political dissent, and any attempt to de-register an organization usually involves long court actions.