Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The National Election Watch Uganda- NEW U is in trouble following the suspension of its activities by the National Bureau for Non-Government Organizations.
NEW-U is a coalition of over 60 organizations that among others observe electoral activities across the country. Some of the organisations include Uganda Women Network, Center for Constitutional governance and Women’s Democracy Network among others.
On Thursday morning, Patrick Onen Ezaga, the senior communications officer of the NGO Bureau said the operations of National Election Watch Uganda are illegal because it is not registered in the country. Ezaga says that while it is not wrong to form coalitions, they must be registered and monitored by the government.
The coalition was launched on September 10th, 2020 a few days after the release of the results from their observation of the chaotic National Resistance Movement –NRM primaries, which were marred with a number of irregularities. Ezaga says that they learnt about the operations of the coalition after their launch and sought to meet with them.
After the interaction, he says they realized that the organization wasn’t registered by the bureau, contrary to the NGO Act 2016. They also learned that NEW-U had 65 organizations under it and not 60 as had been declared by the leaders. Of these, 42 were registered and had updated permits to operate, six are registered and have permits but not updated, six are registered but with no valid permits while 11 were not registered with the NGO Bureau.
The Bureau referred to NEW-U as a loose coalition, which proceeded to commence its operations without incorporation, registration and permission to operate within the laws of Uganda. They condemned the NGO Forum for providing a secretariat to an illegal entity.
“It therefore lacks the legal authority/basis to transact any activity in its own capacity since it would not be held liable for its actions,” said Ezaga. He added whereas UNNGOF (NGO Forum) and some of the organizations which are valid were accredited by the Electoral Commission in their own right to be election observers in the forthcoming national polls, there was no such accreditation for NEW-U.
Ezaga cautioned NGOs that operate without registration and updated permits to stop. Rita Aciro, the head of NEW-U has not yet commented as she couldn’t be reached.