How the space of the civil societies has been shrinking
Kampala, Uganda | PATRICIA AKANKWATSA | On Feb, 03 the country woke up to the news that had President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni ordered the Ministry of Finance to suspend all activities of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) for financing subversive activities in Uganda.
DGF was launched in 2011 by Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Austria, Norway, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the European Union as a five-year program to support government and non-governmental groups working to promote human rights, deepen democracy and improve accountability. Renewed in 2018 and domiciled within the Danish embassy, the fund says it wants to see a country “where citizens are empowered to engage in democratic governance and the state upholds citizens’ rights.”
The fund, which has operated in Uganda with the full knowledge of relevant authorities, has supported groups ranging from rights watchdogs to anti-corruption agencies, and even journalists doing investigative work have received funding. Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda has praised the work accomplished through the fund.
But in a letter dated Jan.02 Museveni says: “The foreign mission and its co-founders have been given free rein by the Ministry of Finance to choose which activity, entities and amounts to finance without the knowledge or consent of the Government. A big percentage of these funds have been used to finance activities and organisations designed to subvert Government under the guise of improving governance”.
In the letter, Museveni says the Ministry of Finance under the hand of the Permanent Secretary, irregularly and unilaterally authorized a £100 million fund, known as the Democratic Governance Facility, to be operated exclusively by a foreign mission in Uganda.
He says unlike prior grant arrangements like the Democratic Governance and Accountability project in which there was transparency and representations the Government of “Uganda has no say or oversight on how the Democratic Governance Facility is administered in Uganda.”
He asked the Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija, to explain how and why the Permanent Secretary, Keith Muhakanizi, authorized the operations of DGF without the involvement of cabinet and tasked the Inspectorate of Government, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and the Statehouse Anti-Corruption Unit to investigate Muhakanizi and other government officials over possible subversion, corruption and or criminal negligence.
“I have also established that last year, the Ministry of Finance made a belated and feeble attempt to get a Government Representative on the Board of this fund which would have been of little consequence anyway. However, you were quickly an arrogantly rebuffed by the foreign mission because apparently as you were reminded by that foreign mission, the exclusive management of the fund lies with them and oversight is by the foreign co-founders, exclusively,” Museveni said.
“I am therefore directing you to immediately, suspend the activities of this fund, until the cabinet has fully reviewed this matter and a new governance structure in which the elected representatives of the people of Uganda have appropriate oversight, has been put in place and approved by me,” he added.