The latest development comes on the backdrop of comments by the President throughout his campaigns that some sections of the opposition are funded by foreigners to destabilise Uganda for their own selfish interests.
Referring to them as fools, Museveni said most of them think he does not know them yet he is well aware of their activities.
“They found our children (youths) here and asked them to cause chaos in Uganda just like they did in Libya, Sudan and Zimbabwe not knowing we are a different cup of tea. Those people lit fire on roads not knowing they were spoiling our tarmac,”Museveni said during a campaign meeting in Hoima on December 19, 2020.
“They tried to disrupt Kampala and the army came in. They thought it was going to be like other countries but the army gave them the medicine they wanted.”
Godber Tumushabe the Associate Director at the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS) says that there is more to this because there is no way the president has no knowledge of the things he raised in the letter.
He says that the government has always been uncomfortable with NGOs working on governance issues, working on issues to do with human rights promotion and issues of accountability.
“This has always been an area of contention and as this regime has become more autocratic, these contentions have become more apparent,” he says, “The problem is that this regime has made a decision to disrupt every form of civic activity. NGOs are the biggest threats to the government,” he says.
“The posture has always been the same. It is the magnitude and manifestations that has changed,” he adds.
In 2019, more than 12,000 civil society organisations were told they would no longer operate in Uganda. Observers said the move was the beginning of a purge of NGO activities in the country.
This followed the government’s review of the number of officially registered NGOs in Uganda. Only 2,118 were given the green light to operate in the country.
Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa, the Chief Executive Officer Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET), also says that these allegations and attacks on NGOs have no basis just that the government has grown paranoid concerning NGOs.
“If I have a case, you take me court and the courts of law make a decision not you taking the law in your own hands. The government telling CSOs and NGOs to follow the law are the ones breaking it,” Namubiru says.
“You can’t just suspend me, freeze my accounts. I should be investigated, arraigned and have an ongoing investigation,” she adds.
Namubiru says that the government is using excessive regulatory force on activities of CSOs which is shrinking their operations because of the deteriorating government environment.
“Before you know it, there will be no civil society sector,” she says adding that the space of the civil societies has been shrinking and now it is getting closed because they have now gone for the donor”
“They have now brought the development partner into this. The donor is giving us resources which are employing the people, reducing the vulnerability to poverty, government is getting revenue, supporting state actors, but because someone thinks DGF funds some CSO that is in bad books of government, there is subversion,” she adds.
Peter Wandera the Executive Director of Transparency International Uganda says this is all happening because government thinks NGOs are going overboard with their work.
“We are partners with the government but sometimes we disagree and it creates conflict. Like when we point out bad governance, non respect of human rights, government thinks we are fighting them but we are just principled. We can’t let injustices pass,” he says.
Tumushabe adds that the regime has become more autocratic and that is why it is focusing more on attacking institutions of citizenship.
“They try to co-opt them and when they fail, they try to buy them and when that fails, they attack them and that is how dictatorship starts,” he says.