Thursday, September 21, 2017
ActionAid USA stands in solidarity with ActionAid Uganda in the wake of the police raid on their office in Kampala Wednesday evening. We were not alone in being affected by this attempt to intimidate civil society organizations and the movements that we are a part of, so we also send our solidarity and concern to our partners at the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS), who were also subject to a raid.
“We will not be silent in the face of this latest attempt to suppress civic engagement, and we invite all of our allies and organizations to join us in expressing solidarity with Ugandan civil society,” said ActionAid USA Executive Director Marie Clarke. “By raising our collective voice across the world, we can send the message to all governments that civil society will not be silent in the face of repression.”
The details of the raid are below in ActionAid International’s statement, but we believe this is the latest symptom of a much deeper attempt by the Ugandan government to shrink the space for all civil society to exercise their rights and demand accountability from their government. Unfortunately, this trend of increasingly authoritarian governments cracking down on organizations and movements demanding justice is not unique to Uganda, but is felt in many countries around the world.
We believe that the siege on the ActionAid office in Uganda is a response to a press conference that ActionAid hosted with allies last week where they released a civil society statement opposing a proposal being discussed in Parliament to amend Article 102b of the constitution that puts a cap on the age limit for the president between 35 and 75 years of age. The current president of Uganda, who has been in power for 32 years, will be 76 by the next election in 2021. At present, he would be barred by the constitution from seeking re-election.
Civil society organizations, including ActionAid Uganda, have collectively stated their opposition to the proposed scheme to remove age limits for the presidency and have vowed to defend that and other important constitutional provisions that guarantee a peaceful political transition, something that has eluded Uganda since independence in 1962.
In addition to the current parliamentary debate on age limits, we see on the horizon another deeply concerning debate on land rights. ActionAid and our allies will stand with women smallholder farmers and others to defend their food sovereignty, including their right to land. Given that we will not be silenced by this act of intimidation, we invite your solidarity and support as we continue to work toward our vision of a just, equitable and sustainable world in which every person enjoys the right to a life of dignity and freedom from poverty and all forms of oppression.
ActionAid International Statement: ActionAid Uganda Office Searched by Police
ActionAid International is concerned about the police cordon and search raid on the offices of ActionAid Uganda, carried out yesterday afternoon. The stated motivation for the attacks – “involvement in illicit activities” – is broad and unmotivated.
On Wednesday, September 20, at about 4:30 pm local time, approximately 20 police and state security officials entered the ActionAid Uganda Head Offices in Kansanga, Kampala. All staff in the office were prevented from leaving for several hours as the police thoroughly searched the premises; they removed some documents; and confiscated cell-phones and laptops of some staff. No staff were physically harmed.
We understand that ActionAid Uganda may have been targeted because it is a key actor within a broader civil society coalition that is campaigning against the planned amendment of an article in the constitution that would scrap the presidential age limit. Civil society is calling on parliament to focus on the country’s more pressing needs, such as corruption, poverty, inequality, the ongoing and unprecedented spate of unexplained murders of women in and around Kampala and unemployment, especially among young people.
We consider that the accusations against ActionAid Uganda are unfounded and believe that such attacks could have a detrimental impact on the people and communities with whom we work, our partners and civil society in general.
ActionAid remains committed to working with and supporting Uganda’s civil society and fight for justice and democracy. Secretary General of ActionAid International, Adriano Campolina, said, “We are concerned about the shrinking of civic space within the country.”
ActionAid Uganda Country Director, Arthur Larok, stated, “Despite the inconveniences caused by the cordon and search operation by the police, we are unfazed about advancing our mission to tackle the primary cause of injustice and poverty in Uganda. Our spirit is unshaken and we shall cooperate with the police to see this expeditiously resolved.”
ActionAid has been working in Uganda since 1982. We work to defend the rights of women; the rights of poor and marginalized people to land, food and education; and the right for the people of Uganda to demand justice in the areas of tax, anti-corruption and political accountability.