Last week, Bank of Uganda (BoU) froze the accounts of Actionaid Uganda at the request of the Uganda Police after it was allegedly discovered that they are involved in what police called criminal behaviour. All the five accounts including a Uganda Shillings account, US dollar, Pound Sterling and two Euro accounts held at Standard Chartered Bank were frozen.
In a letter dated October 3 to Standard Chartered Bank Uganda Limited, Louis Kasakende, the Deputy Governor BoU explained that the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) of the Police is investigating Actionaid International Uganda for alleged conspiracy to commit a felony and money laundering.
Kasekende listed five bank accounts belonging to the NGO held at Standard Chartered Bank, which Police CID is investigating. Pursuant to section 110 of the Financial Institutions Act, 2004, Kasakende directed Standard Chartered Bank to freeze all the listed accounts. It was also reported that another bunch of twenty five NGOs were under investigations after being discovered to be also involved in activities other than those they registered to do in Uganda.
On September 19th, Police raided the offices of Actionaid in Kampala, where they conducted a cordon and search operation. Police accessed and searched computer accessories, mobile phone handsets, money transfer related documents and bank related transaction documents, taking away some of them. A similar operation was conducted on Great Lakes Initiative for Strategic Studies (GLISS). Police is accusing the organisations of funding illegal activities with the aim of destabilizing government and the country.
Actionaid is an international NGO whose primary mandate is registered as “fighting poverty and injustices,” among the under privileged especially women and children. However, Actionaid Uganda and indeed a number of other NGOs have of recent joined the infamous anti-age limit Bill campaign by bankrolling all those opposed to the Bill currently before parliament.
It is said that they are channeling money to some rowdy groups for them to violently create anarchy in form of agitation, civil disobedience and demonstrations around the country. Early this month, a white man fled police in Alebtong district where he was found training locals on how to organise demonstrations, and he is still on the run, perhaps hiding in one of the diplomatic missions here.
Their main objective is to make Uganda ‘ungovernable’, a mission they state publicly during the many workshops, seminars and media talk-shows they have recently been engaged in or funded. There is credible evidence that some of these NGOs have been behind funding and ferrying university students, and unemployed youths to different parts of the country to sow political mayhem. Also, they are the ones behind the printing and dropping of leaflets with abusive, insulting and threatening messages as well as t-shirts being worn by demonstrators across the country. Last week, intelligence incepted such leaflets and t-shirts that were intended to disrupt and embarrass President Yoweri Museveni while in Soroti.
This week, while appearing on Morning at NTV programme Henry Nickson Ogwal, the Director Partnership and Funding at Actionaid Uganda stated that his organisation had decided to join the anti-age limit campaign. In clear terms, Actionaid is no longer an NGO whose primary objective is to reduce hunger and fight for the underprivileged women and children.
In essence they are now a partisan organisation, and must therefore be viewed and treated as such. Well, nobody has refused the country director of Actionaid Arthur Larok and all those who think like him in the NGO world from becoming politicians or joining opposition political groups. However, it is wrong of them to attempt to use the cover of the NGOs because as people claiming to promote transparency, they must be transparent in their own dealings.
The theatre of political agitation and debate is parliament of Uganda and other elective offices. The honest advice to Actionaid, Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies and others who think like them is to get out of the quisling cover of ‘neutral’ NGOs and come into the real arena of partisan politics.
No doubt Actionaid and few others who think like them have deviated from the core tenets that they put across while seeking registration with the NGO registration Board at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Therefore, if government calls them to order they should not cry foul.
Under the new NGOs Act 2016, any act deemed prejudicial to Uganda’s security, interest, or the dignity of its people is an offense. If any NGO contravenes any of the conditions or directions specified in the permit, government is permitted to intervene. Any phony activities shouldn’t be allowed and no doubt police must swing into action to apprehend the leaders of these organizations and where possible face other prescribed penalties under the law.
The government of Uganda especially under the leadership of President Museveni has been so generous to NGOs and CSOs by allowing them unlimited freedoms to operate in Uganda. However, most NGOs have abused this generosity by accepting to be used by some foreign agents with sinister agenda, the reason many of them have been vigorously resisting formal registration, scrutiny and public accountability. This cannot continue anymore, and since Actionaid made its bed, it should be prepared to sleep in it.
Ofwono Opondo is the executive director of Uganda media centre