Friday, October 13, 2017
On Thursday the Ugandan authorities closed down the bank accounts of ActionAid Uganda, preventing the organization from doing its vital work tackling poverty and injustice. The authorities also sent a letter to 25 other non-governmental organizations demanding their bank account details.
ActionAid demands that the authorities unfreeze its bank accounts and end their acts of intimidation against civil society.
ActionAid Uganda Country Director, Arthur Larok, said:
“It seems that the Ugandan authorities are willing to sacrifice the needs and rights of its own citizens in order to maintain their grip on power. We must be allowed to continue to assist people living in poverty and facing marginalization. We cannot allow harm to come to ordinary people.”
The ruling party wants to amend the constitution to remove the presidential age limit of 75 years of age. The move is widely seen as a way of allowing incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, 73, to stand for President again in 2021. President Museveni has already ruled the East African country for 31 years.
Many individuals, organizations and MPs have themselves been protesting against this move – the authorities have responded by cracking down on civil society and preventing vital poverty reduction and civic engagement work in the country.
Without access to funds, ActionAid will not be able to continue its essential work, which includes efforts to protect women against violence. This is particularly important because of a series of unexplained murders of women in and around Kampala.
This is not the first time that ActionAid has been targeted in Uganda. On September 20 and 21, 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 the personal cell-phones of some staff and official laptops. They also raided the offices of two of ActionAid Uganda’s local partners.
ActionAid Uganda’s Country Director, Arthur Larok, and Director of Finance, Bruno Ssemaganda were then summoned to the Kampala police station for an “interview and statement” on October 10 and 11. Although both were released without charge, ActionAid subsequently found that its major bank accounts had been closed down. The personal bank accounts of some of its staff have also been frozen.
ActionAid USA Executive Director, Marie Clarke, said:
“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.
“All Ugandans must be allowed to freely express their views for or against issues of national importance to them. The actions the government is taking in this case amount to criminalizing dissent and go against both Ugandan and international law.”
The police claim that ActionAid Uganda has been involved in “illegal activities”. However, ActionAid believes that the office raid, police interview and the freezing of its bank accounts are part of a wider crackdown against legitimate protests against the plan to remove the presidential age limit from the Ugandan Constitution, which would allow the current president to remain in power indefinitely.
ActionAid remains committed to working with and supporting Uganda’s civil society and fight for justice and democracy.
Marie Clarke added:
“We are deeply concerned about the acts of intimidation by the Ugandan government against our local staff in the country.
“We are worried about the effects this is having on our colleagues and are extremely concerned that this will reduce the impact on the important work they are doing to support people living in poverty.”