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CSOs condemn gov’t for freezing NGO accounts

Perry Aritua addressing journalists at the secretariate of Civil Society. Courtesy photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Civil society activists have condemned the decision by the Financial Intelligence Authority-FIA to freeze the accounts of Uganda Women’s Network-UWONET and Uganda National-NGO Forum for alleged terror financing. FIA froze the accounts of the two organisations in Stanbic Bank, ABSA Bank, KCB Bank and Standard Chartered Bank on Friday on allegations of financing terrorism.

Xavier Ejoyi, country director of Action Aid Uganda says the civil society sector is troubled about the growing smear campaign aimed at undermining their credibility and deep commitment to improving the welfare of all Ugandans.

“The allegations of NGOs financing terrorism are not only grave, they are also faceless and without basis. We are fully conscious that these accusations are intended to delegitimize our work, blackmail us and make us look bad in the eyes of the citizens that we serve,” said Ejoyi at a media briefing held on Sunday.

He noted that the decision to halt any bank transactions on the accounts of the organizations doesn’t only affect the organisations but affects Ugandans who benefit from their work and services. According to Ejoyi, the attacks on NGOs are increasing and cited the example where the National Bureau for NGOs disrupted the work of NEW-U, a platform of NGOs engaged in the monitoring of 2021 elections in October 2020.

He said this trend has been escalating since 2010 where security agencies attacked and disrupted the work of Black Monday anti-corruption activists and the free and fair elections campaign.

“In 2017, security agencies raided offices of a number of organizations and halted operations of their blank account. At no point did these agencies provide any credible information regarding the allegations leveled on these organizations,” said Ejoyi. He asked the government to halt its attack and leave NGOs to do their best in giving help to the country.

Sarah Birette, the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Governance said it’s unfortunate that mothers of the nation are now branded terrorists. She called for the immediate retraction of the said allegations.

Perry Aritua, the Executive Director for Women’s Democracy Network said the attack on UWONET is a direct attack on Ugandan women because the organisation has ensured that voices of women remain heard clearly in the governance of the country.

Patricia Munaabi, the Executive Director Forum for Women in Democracy said not only NGOs are under attack but also the media and citizens participating in the country’s general elections. She called for unity and asked Ugandans not to let fear and intimidation become a hindrance to ensuring democracy.

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