Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Uganda: Space for Civil Society Shrinking in Uganda Say National and Global CSOS

Johannesburg, 25 June 2012 — Civil society space in Uganda is rapidly shrinking, warn global network CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Uganda-based East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP). Independent civil society organisations are being openly threatened and placed under excessive scrutiny by senior government officials.

For example, on 18 June, a skills-building workshop for LGBTI human rights defenders organised by EHAHRDP was closed abruptly after police raided the training venue. Workshop participants, and guests and staff in the hotel where the meeting was taking place were effectively held hostage for over three hours while police attempted to identify and detain participants. Two EHAHRDP staff members and two workshop participants were also detained on a police bus. The police advised EHAHRDP to end the training and to deliver a copy of their registration and incorporation documents to the Criminal Investigations Department.

EHAHRDP was further advised to seek approval from police institutions when such gatherings are scheduled in future in order to avoid more disruption. Local journalists arrived before the police and said that they had received a tip-off of the action from the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Hon. Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo.

Coming just four months after the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity shut down another capacity building workshop organised by LGBTI activists in February and sought to inspect training materials being used, the interruption of EHAHRDP's workshop highlights a trend of violations of freedom of association and assembly in Uganda. Four of the activists involved in the February events - Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, Frank Mugisha, Pepe Julian Onziema and Geoffrey Ogwaro - have filed a suit against the minister and the Attorney General on the grounds that the closure violated their freedom of assembly, as guaranteed under the Ugandan constitution. The case is scheduled to be heard at the High Court on 25 June.

On 1 June, Uganda's Minister for Internal Affairs called for increased regulation and supervision of NGOs in response to a civil society report detailing cases of land grabbing in Uganda. He accused the authors of the report - Uganda Land Alliance and Oxfam - of "peddling lies" and urged NGOs to share their reports with the government before releasing them to the public.

In March, the Governor of the Bank of Uganda wrote to all commercial banks to provide information about the financial transactions of an environmental group, the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment, which hosted a gathering of over 300 local councillors to discuss governance issues under their National Local Government Councillors Association.

Civil society members are increasingly being accused of being agents of the political opposition or foreign powers out to "destabilise" the government. President Museveni posed a rhetorical question in parliament in February while speaking on Uganda's energy policy: "Who is civil society? These are some individuals in the employ of foreign NGOs." This is rhetoric often employed by governments seeking to restrict their domestic civil society.

"The situation in Uganda is rapidly deteriorating as civil society members are being intimidated in an attempt to stop them airing their views," says Hassan Shire, Executive Director of EHAHRDP. "Respect for freedom of expression, association and assembly are all essential foundations of a democratic and rights-respecting society."

The Ugandan Parliament is currently considering the Public Order Management Bill 2011, which would place a number of restrictions on the freedom of assembly, including the requirement to inform the police seven days in advance of holding public meetings; prohibitions on the use of public address systems without prior police permission; and the prevention of demonstrations near important official buildings. The bill also gives the police broad powers to control public assemblies, empowering them to 'direct' the conduct of public meetings and interfere with demonstrations on vaguely defined grounds. Further, violations of the proposed law carry a disproportionately high penalty of two years' imprisonment.

Current laws governing NGOs in Uganda create a highly restrictive regime, allowing unwarranted interference into NGO activities. NGOs are subjected to excessive bureaucratic control through mandatory registration, which is subject to broad executive discretion.

Additionally, government officials are granted wide-ranging powers to limit the scope of NGO activities. For example, NGOs are required to give seven days' advance notice in writing to local authorities if they intend to make direct contact with people in their area of operation.

"The Ugandan government is showing scant regard for its international obligations," says Netsanet Belay, Policy and Research Director at CIVICUS. "Democratic governments and multilateral institutions, including the UN and the African Union, have a responsibility to highlight this reality to the Ugandan authorities."

CIVICUS and EHAHRDP urge the Ugandan government to cease immediately its campaign of intimidation against civil society and respect the right of civil society actors to freely express, associate and assemble, in line with the country's obligations under the Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uganda is a party. They further call on international institutions that engage with the Ugandan government to encourage the government to respect its international commitments fully.

NGOs’ gay plans leak, govt furious

[A Gay hides from the public during one of their recent conferences]

A Gay hides from the public during one of their recent conferences
The government says it has intercepted minutes of a recent meeting that discussed wide-ranging strategies on how to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Uganda.

These strategies include how to raise funds and recruit ‘friendly’ journalists into the cause of fighting for homosexual rights in Uganda. Some sources have told The Observer that security operatives infiltrated gay groups and managed to get a document containing minutes of the meeting.

The unsigned document, a copy of which we have seen, names 41 people, from 23 NGOs, as having attended the meeting on May 4, 2012, under the coordination of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL).

The organisations in attendance, we have been told, are among those that the government is threatening to ban because of their LGBT advocacy work. The document shows that this was the 7th such strategy general meeting.

Icebreakers Uganda, which hosted the meeting, is a community-based organisation that supports the rights of LGBT people in the country. The NGOs discussed, among others, “developing a media strategy and strategic arguments against all the sexual bills and for decriminalisation” with a view to “changing opinions and convincing the public”.

This strategy involves “mapping out friendly journalists, as well as hostile and ignorant ones” with the objective of “identifying trainable journalists to become allies and objective reporters on sexual minority and gender identity issues”.

The plan is to raise a list of “40 journalists of a mixture of friendly, hostile and ignorant”. The strategy, whose aim is “gaining acceptance for the sexual minority groups”, with a time frame of June 2012 to June 2013, lists among its activities, workshops, talk-shows, barazas and parliamentary advocacy programmes for legislators.

The plan is to roll out implementation of the strategy through civil society groups spread throughout the country. There is also a well laid-out plan to lobby the national, regional and international community to pile pressure on the Uganda government to abandon the Anti-Homosexuality bill and any other laws hostile to homosexuals.
Lokodo excited

The document has reportedly given Rev Simon Lokodo, the minister in charge of Ethics and Integrity, ammunition to go after gay activists with renewed zeal. Shortly before leaving for an official trip abroad last week, an excited Lokodo, upon seeing the document, said he had finally obtained the information he needed to fight homosexuality in Uganda.

“These people are disruptive; they are promoting a negative culture contrary to the laws of this country. They are promoting homosexuality and lesbianism as an acceptable culture, and this is ruining our lives,” Lokodo said.

He added: “This is not going to stop. We will support the bill. There is now sufficient evidence to move against these evil people. We’ll punish them with a deterrent punishment. We are looking for a day when this law is going to take shape.”

Last Wednesday, Lokodo announced that the government would ban 38 NGOs deemed sympathetic to activities of LGBT people in the country. He said he had passed the list of the NGOs to the Internal Affairs minister to get all of them deregistered, as they were engaging in an illegal activity. Lokodo told journalists that the NGOs were receiving support from abroad and “recruiting” young children into the vice.

“We found that, on the pretext of humanitarian concerns, these organisations are being used to promote negative cultures. They are encouraging homosexuality as if it is the best form of sexual behaviour,” he said.

The previous day, the police had halted a workshop of gay rights activists at Esella country hotel in Najjeera, in the outskirts of Kampala, and briefly detained some participants and staff members of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), one of the organisers of the event.

Njoroge Njenga, a programme officer with Freedom House, an American NGO, while admitting knowing some of the names of participants at the strategy May 4 meeting, said he was not aware of the specific details of that meeting, because he had only recently arrived in Uganda.

Neil Blazevic, one of the activists detained together with Njenga last Tuesday, is named as participant number 29 on the attendance list of the May 4 NGOs’ meeting at Ice Breakers Uganda.
Gay Bill

Article 31 (2a) of the constitution, as well as provisions of the Ugandan Penal Code Act, prohibit same sex relationships. Two years ago, Ndorwa West MP, David Bahati, moved a private member’s bill, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, seeking to impose tougher punishment for promotion of, and involvement in, homosexuality.

Although the bill enjoys ample support across Uganda, western governments have piled pressure on Kampala to stop the legislation on human rights grounds. Last week, Bahati, while commenting on the latest campaign against gay activists, said his bill intended “to stop the promotion, recruitment, funding and same sex marriages”.

He insists that Uganda must stand firm and reject attempts by people who want to promote activities of LGBT people, adding that homosexuality is not a human rights issue in Uganda because it is illegal.

When told about the meeting minutes that Lokodo’s people had found, Bahati said: “If it is true that such a document has been [obtained], it serves to strengthen what we have been talking about; that these people are deliberately recruiting followers and promoting their actions, taking advantage of a weak law. We now need to move and strengthen the legal regime and make the punishment more stringent.”

However, organisers of the now controversial meeting are defiant. Jeff Ogwaro, the national coordinator of CSCHRCL, told The Observer yesterday that the NGOs had been meeting monthly for about six months. He, however, denied any wrongdoing.

“I am surprised that government does not know its own laws,” Ogwaro said. “We are promoting human rights, just like those promoting children’s rights… but we don’t have a curriculum that teaches people how to have [gay] sex. Lokodo needs to be educated. He is ignorant.”
List of NGOs facing ban

Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law
Refugee Law Project
Rainbow and Diversity Organisation
Angel Support Group
Trans Equality Uganda
Rainbow Foundation Mbarara


-1 #1 Betty Long Cap 2012-06-27 02:22
The Anti-Homosexuality bill should be re-introduced in Parliament as the anti-sodomy bill. Sodomy is a violent, filthy assault of the rectum and must not be put under the umbrella of human rights.

The militant advocacy group LGBT seeks to destroy the moral fabric of Uganda. Deport reprobates to the west where they can sodomize any consenting adult.

FYI: For decades, homosexuals and lesbians have used the symbol of the rainbow to promote gay pride. Watch for the image of a rainbow oreo cookie.

0 #2 Mwfrika David 2012-06-27 07:08
This remind me of sometime back when the security operative tried to link the curent DP president was linked to kony as they had a email sent to him by kony seeking his support.

How can the whole minister who is educated say that he has a report which no one signed on it and say its a genuine report, if its true why that that report no person who attended signed and if its a genuine report the auther must sign, please stop taking us for a ride

0 #3 steven kasiko 2012-06-27 08:46
Gays rights are human rights why make other people suffer because of there chioce let every Ugandan enjoy his freedom

+1 #4 as 2012-06-27 08:49
kindly you NGOS ,dont bring this kind of behaviour to UG.we have enough problems. Let us not annoy ALLAH ,the Bududah mudslides are enough punishment.

do you really think uganda has enough reconstruction material in case things like hurricanes come her,things like tornados,what about the life that will be affected.i want to tell you such a sin in society goes unpunished from the Almighty GOD

0 #5 oska 2012-06-27 09:45
Nowhere in the world have i seen society having workshops promoting, campaigning for heterosex. This is wierd!!

if you are sure homosexual behaviour is something natural to do, why spend all that hefty sums promoting & campaigning for it, conscripting young people to the so called natural behaviour???. you would instead let it take root naturally. That shows something is not normal here. Even animals with their small IQ know the right thing but human beings hmnn!!!!

0 #6 Wats 2012-06-27 09:57
North Carolina (USA) voted to define marriage as relationship between Man and Woman, just a week ago, a wife of Chairman of Republican party member of one state in USA wnet on rampage burning the T-Shirt which was given to her husband by a Gay activist and she went further on to his web site with a barrage of abuses, just as the old say goes, CHARIT BEGINS FROM HOME

why are these gays behaving as if gays activities is acceptable everywhere in USA, such that its only Uganda which is backward?? I DON'T AGREE WITH HOMOSEXUALITY COMPLETELY, UNLESS WE WANT MANKIND TO GET EXTINC.

0 #7 Wats 2012-06-27 09:59
An the Observer reporter who managed to take the above photo must have been labled a gay sympthizer , friendly and thats why he was allowed in.

0 #8 kamparaaaaa 2012-06-27 10:22
would we really rather forego the millions of dollars from donar aid funding which helps millions of poor pple just becoz of a few handful ugandan citizens demand gay rights. only pple who will suffer from this lose of aid r poor mothers, children and orphans and not our rich mps and ministers.

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Businessman arrested, deported to South Sudan
One arrested over Sheikh Kiweewa

Monday, June 18, 2012

Alert: Police Interrupt EHAHRDP Workshop; Question Workshop Participants and Organisers in Kampala

A training workshop for human rights defenders organized by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project has been interrupted by uninvited media representatives and the police. Participants are currently being questioned by the police.

EHAHRDP organized the training working on monitoring, documentation and reporting of human rights violations for LGBTI defenders, which opened this morning at Esella Country Hotel, Najjera, Kampala. The workshop organisers, which brought together twenty HRDs from Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, as well as seven EHAHRDP staff members and interns, stopped the meeting when they learned that the media was coming to the hotel. Around ten journalists arrived at approximately 2.30pm, and two or three cameras were used to film the event. EHAHRDP has not been able to establish who informed the media that the training was taking place, although some of the journalists claimed to have received the information via the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Rev. Simon Lokodo.

Soon afterwards, the police arrived and began to question participants. Led by the head of the Kampala Metropolitan Criminal Investigations Department, the police began by questioning Paul Njogore from Freedom House, Jane Wothaya Thirikwa from Gay Kenya Trust, Neil Blazevic (a Canadian citizen) and Tabitha Netuwa from EHAHRDP, who were then held for some time in a police van and were told they would be taken to the Kira Road police station. The police are currently questioning all participants one-by-one, including by forcibly entering their hotel rooms.

EHAHRDP calls on the Ugandan police to immediately release all participants, and condemns this unjustified interruption of our legitimate activities.

For more information, please contact:
Hassan Shire, Executive Director on or +41 793 375 875
Rachel Nicholson, Advocacy Officer on or +41 762 556 769