Ugandan FlagNGO Law Monitor: Uganda

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated 3 June 2014

Update: In May 2014, the Cabinet approved the Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) Registration (Amendment) Bill, which could bar NGOs from engaging in political work and expand government powers to monitor NGOs. The Minister of Information and National Guidance also said that the Bill would provide a way of "shielding Uganda from undocumented inflow and outflow of funds for NGOs" that could be used for "fanning instability." In February 2014, President Yoweri Museveni also assented to the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Under the provision of “Promotion of Homosexuality,” anyone who “funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities” [the phrase “other related activities” is left entirely undefined]... or who acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices” is subject to criminal sanction. This could be interpreted broadly enough that advocating gay rights could be considered a “related practice” which promotes or abets homosexuality.

Introduction

Civil society plays an active role in Uganda. For example, civil society spearheaded the reform of electoral laws ahead of the 2011 general elections through a coalition called Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU). Moreover, many civil society organizations in Uganda are dedicated to the protection of rights (e.g., African Centre for Torture Victims), which are rooted in international instruments and the Bill of Rights in Uganda’s Constitution.

Civil society organizational forms include non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs). The primary regulatory instruments are the Non Governmental Organizations (Amendment) Act 2006 and the NGO Registration Regulations, SI 113-1, 1990. Notably, the definition of NGOs under Article 1 of the NGO Act is narrow and limits available activity areas for NGOs. NGOs engaged in advocacy or public policy activities, for example, are therefore vulnerable to governmental supervisory action. Moreover, the operating scope for NGOs remains subject to governmental discretion.

Recent legislation is narrowing the legal space for civil society.  For example, on October 2, 2013, the President of Uganda assented to the Public Order Management Act, 2013. Section 8 of the Act grants the police powers to prohibit public meetings while Section 9 grants the police powers to decide suitable venues for holding public meetings. Since the enactment of the Act, there has been a disproportionate targeting of meetings organized by opposition members and/or civil society representatives. In addition, the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 poses grave threats for civil society organizations engaging in any advocacy work for gay rights. Section 13 criminalizes any person who "promotes homosexuality,” which may be interpreted to include NGOs that advocate for gay rights. As reflected in the two aforementioned Acts, the legal framework for civil society in Uganda is supportive of NGOs only insofar as an NGO's sphere of activity is politically convenient to the Government.

Uganda’s legal system is based on English common law and African customary law. Customary law governs to the extent it does not contradict the statutory laws, although the 1995 Constitution is the supreme law of the land.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), trusts, and community based organizations (CBOs)
Registration Body NGOs - NGO Board; CBOs - Local government.
Barriers to Entry Registration is mandatory, with penalties for conducting activities through unregistered organizations. NGOs are subject to burdensome registration procedures, including recommendations from governmental representatives. NGOs are subject to annual re-registration. Procedural safeguards during registration are lacking.
Barriers to Activities NGOs must notify the government prior to making direct contact with people in its area of operation. NGOs must cooperate with local councils and relevant district committees. NGOs are subject to detailed requirements relating to staffing. Involuntary dissolution may be based on vague, subjective grounds.
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy While there are no legal barriers per se, NGOs promoting human rights may be subject to governmental intimidation. In addition, NGOs advocating gay rights may be criminalized.
Barriers to International Contact

No legal barriers.

Barriers to Resources All foreign funding must be received in the Bank of Uganda (government bank).
Barriers to Assembly Police approval required for public meetings of 3 of more people to discuss political issues.

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Key Indicators

Population 35,918,915
Capital Kampala
Type of Government Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 53.1 years
Female: 55.86 years (2014)
Literacy Rate Male: 82.6%
Female: 64.6%(2010)
Religious Groups Roman Catholic: 41.9%; Protestant: 42%; Muslim: 12.1%; other: 3.1%; none: 0.9% (2002 census)
Ethnic Groups Baganda 16.9%; Banyakole 9.5%; Basoga 8.4%; Bakiga 6.9%; Iteso 6.4%; Langi 6.1%; Acholi 4.7%; Bagisu 4.6%; Lugbara 4.2%; Bunyoro 2.7%; other 29.6% (2002 census)
GDP per capita $1,500 (2012)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2009.

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale 
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 161 (2013) 1 – 182
World Bank Rule of Law Index 36.8 (2012) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 33.2 (2012) 100 – 0
Transparency International 140 (2013) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Partly Free
Political Rights: 5
Civil Liberties:4 (2013)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Failed States Index
Rank: 22 (2013)
177 – 1
0-10

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Legal Snapshot

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1995
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 1995
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 1987
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR) No --
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1980
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1985
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women No --
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1990
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) Yes 1995
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2008
Regional Treaties    
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Yes 1986
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child Yes 1994
Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Yes 2001
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa No --
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights Yes 2001

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The Constitution of Uganda was adopted in 1995.  Relevant provisions include the following:

Article 19. Protection of freedom of conscience, expression, movement, religion, assembly and association.
1. Every person shall have the right to—
(d) freedom to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peacefully and unarmed and to petition; and
(e) freedom of association which shall include the freedom to form
and join associations or unions, including trade unions and
political and other civic organisations.

Article 38. Civic rights and activities.
1. In the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms prescribed in this Chapter, no person shall prejudice the fundamental or other human rights and freedoms of others or the public interest.
2. Every Ugandan has a right to participate in peaceful activities to influence policies of government through civic organizations.

Article 43. General limitation on fundamental and other human rights and freedoms.
1. In the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms prescribed in this Chapter, no person shall prejudice the fundamental or other human rights and freedoms of others or the public interest.
2. Public interest under this article shall not permit -

  1. political persecution;
  2. detention without trial;
  3. any limitation of the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms prescribed by this Chapter beyond what is acceptable and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society, or what is provided in the Constitution

Article 50. Enforcement of rights and freedoms by courts.
1. Any person who claims that a fundamental or other right or freedom guaranteed under this Constitution has been infringed or threatened, is entitled to apply to a competent court for redress which may include compensation.
2. Any person or organisation may bring an action against the violation of another person’s or group’s human rights.
3. Any person aggrieved by any decision of the court may appeal to the appropriate court.
4. Parliament shall make laws for the enforcement of the rights and freedoms under this Chapter.

Article 51. Uganda Human Rights Commission.
1. There shall be a Commission called the Uganda Human Rights Commission.
2. The Commission shall be composed of a Chairperson and not less than three other persons appointed by the President with the approval of Parliament.
3. The Chairperson of the Commission shall be a Judge of the High Court or a person qualified to hold that office.
4. The Chairperson and members of the commission shall be persons of high moral character and proven integrity and shall serve for a period of six years and be eligible for re-appointment.

Ugandan law also contains “directive principles”, which are non-binding provisions relevant to constitutional interpretation:

  • Directive principle II (vi) provides that Civic Organizations shall retain their autonomy in pursuit of their declared objectives.
  • Directive principle V (i) provides that “the state shall guarantee and respect institutions which are charged by the state with responsibility for protecting and promoting human rights by providing them with adequate resources to function effectively.”
  • Directive principle V (ii) states that “The state shall guarantee and respect the independence of nongovernmental organizations which protect and promote human rights.”

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national laws include the following:

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

In March 2014, the Government released a set of stringent regulations which all broadcasting media houses must comply with. For instance, all media houses must allocate prime time to promote government programs and public relations. In addition, moderators will be penalized for tolerating provocative and anti-government questions from callers.

In addition, the proposed Press and Journalist (Amendment) Bill, 2010 remains pending. The Press Bill contains proposed amendments to the Press and Journalist Act 2001, which is the law that governs media practice. The proposed Bill has been criticized as being overly punitive in nature. For example, the Bill reportedly contains wide-ranging and ill-defined powers enabling the authorities to revoke the license of a media organization if it publishes material deemed to be "prejudicial to national security, stability and unity," or which is "injurious to Ugandan relations with new neighbors or friendly countries;" causes "economic sabotage" or breaches any of the conditions imposed by the license."

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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

Ugandan law makes provision for the establishment of a variety of civil society organizations. The CSOs that can be formed include:

Nongovernmental Organisations (NGOs)

NGOs are governed by the NGO Registration Act of 1989 which was amended by the NGO Registration Amendment Act 2006. The NGO Registration Act 1989 defines an “organization” as “a nongovernmental organization established to provide voluntary services, including religious, education, literary, scientific, social or charitable services, to the community or any part of it.” (NGO Registration Act, section 1(d)). Examples of NGOs include umbrella NGOs, intermediary organizations, specialist organizations, and local, national and international NGOs.

Trusts and Foundations 

Trusts are governed by the Trustees Act, Cap. 164, 1954; and the Trustees Incorporation Act, Cap. 165, 1939. Foundations can be registered either under the Trustee’s Incorporation Act or as companies limited by guarantee under the Companies Act, Cap. 110, 1961. Trusts and foundations are established to provide grants and in some cases loan financing at a more affordable rate to NGOs, CBOs and private organizations in support of their goals and objectives.

Community Based Organizations (CBOs)

CBOs are predominantly self-help oriented, with the principle aim of improving individual or household welfare, although a few groups play a wider, community development role. They are defined by their relatively small size (usually involving 10-20 households) and limited geographic area, and are generally formed along communal work lines, e.g. forming groups to work collectively on members’ farms or to support funeral ceremony preparations. CBOs with larger, community development roles are supported and sometimes initiated by organizations outside the community. CBOs are registered through notification to area Local Councils (LC 1 and LC 3) for official recognition or with the District administration (section 7 (e) (2) of the NGO Registration Amendment Act).

Public Benefit Status

The NGO Registration Act defines as covered “organizations” those providing “…charitable services to the community or any part of it” (NGO Registration Act, section 1(d)). The Act, however, does not define the term “charitable services.” Nor does the Trustees Incorporation Act define “charitable purpose” as the term is used in the section on establishing a trust.

Notably, however, the Income Tax Act restricts "exempt organization" status to organizations, institutions or irrevocable trusts that qualify as religious, charitable, or educational institutions of a public character that have been issued a written ruling by the Commissioner currently stating that it is an exempt organization (Income Tax Act, Section 2(bb)).

Charitable organizations established under the Companies Act do not benefit from any tax exemptions.

Barriers to Entry

Mandatory registration

Ugandan law does not permit individuals to act collectively through unregistered groups or organizations (Section 2 (1) of the NGO Registration Act 1989, Section 4 of the NGO Registration Amendment Act 2006, Regulation 3 of the NGO Registration Regulations 2009). Regulation 18 of the NGO Registration Regulations 2009 requires CBOs to register with the district local government. Upon registration, the district local government shall issue a certificate of registration specifying the area of operation of the organization and the activities the organization is authorized to operate (Regulation 18 (3) of the NGO Registration Regulations 2009). There are penalties for carrying out activities through unregistered organizations (section 4 of the NGO Registration Act 1989, Section 4 (b) of the NGO Registration Amendment Act 2006, Regulation 8 (3) of the NGO Registration Regulations 2009).

Burdensome registration procedures

NGOs must submit a registration application to the NGO Board. Applications must be accompanied by specification of the area of intended operation, organizational chart, two copies of the organization’s constitution, valid reservation of its name by the Registrar of Companies, a work plan and budget for one year, recommendations by two sureties and the Chairperson of the Local Government Executive committee of the sub-county council and the Resident District Commissioner.

In the case of a foreign organization, a recommendation is required from the diplomatic mission in Uganda of the country from which the organization originates.

Re-registration requirement

The NGO Board shall issue a permit to the organization at the time of registration; the permit shall be issued in the 1st instance for a period of 12 months. NGOs must seek re-registration on an annual basis. NGOs are also required to pay the registration fee upon application for a renewal of a permit.

Lack of Procedural Safeguards

  • There is no fixed time period within which the NGO Board must review and decide upon registration for NGO applicants.
  • The law does not provide objective reasons on which an NGO application can be denied. Decisions are therefore subject to the discretion of the Board to accept or reject a registration application.
  • Similarly, for CBOs, there is no fixed time period within which the district local government must review the application made by the CBO and decide upon registration. The district local government may deny registration of a CBO if it does not satisfy the requirements for registration. However, the law does not provide reasons for the denial of registration for CBOs.

Barriers to Operational Activity

Restrictions on purposes and activities

Ugandan law sets restrictions on the purposes and activities of CSOs. Regulation 13 of NGO Registration Regulation, 2009 provides that an organization must, in carrying out its operations, comply with the following:

  1. Not make any direct contact with the people in its area of operation in Uganda unless it has given seven days’ notice in writing of its intention to the local councils and Resident District Commissioners of the area;
  2. Cooperate with the local councils and the relevant district committees in the area; [article 26 (j) of the Local Government Act, Cap. 243, 1997];
  3. Not engage in any act which is prejudicial to the national interest of Uganda;
  4. Restrict its operations to the area of Uganda in respect of which it is registered to carry out its operations;
  5. Hold itself responsible for all acts of its members and employees; and
  6. Obtain the approval of the Board for any goods for which it seeks exemptions.

Staffing requirements

Regulation 14 of the NGO Registration Regulations 2009 provides that an organization shall comply with certain staffing regulations. Thus it is a requirement for every organization to submit to the NGO Board a chart showing its structure and staffing and specifying the following: its foreign workforce requirements; requirements for Ugandan counterparts of foreign employees; planned period to replace foreign employees with qualified Ugandans; and compliance with the labor laws of Uganda.

Termination and dissolution

Involuntary dissolution may result by order of the NGO Board in a variety of circumstances, including where, “in the opinion of the Board it is in public interest to do so” or “for any other reason the Board considers necessary in the public interest.” Such vague and overbroad grounds invite government overreaching. Recently, NGOs working in Northern Uganda were ordered to account for donor funds or risk being de-registered for failure to do so. They were given two months to report.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

Article 29 of the Constitution guarantees every person the right to freedom of speech and expression; CSOs wishing to speak out and engage in advocacy rely on this constitutional protection. Even though there are no express legal restrictions on CSO engagement in advocacy activities, the Government often intimidates CSOs that seek to promote human rights and democracy.

CSOs in Uganda are allowed to participate in peaceful activities to influence the policies of government (Article 38 (2) of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda). And although there are no set rules governing the engagement of CSOs in law making, CSOs in practice do engage in legislative activities. For instance, once a bill is tabled in Parliament, various stakeholders, including CSOs, are invited to share their views through consultative meetings, workshops and other means.

At the same time, however, CSOs are not allowed to engage in political activities or belong to any political group. As such they cannot directly or indirectly support a political candidate for elected office. But since they are regarded as partners with government in promoting good governance and democracy in the country, they can actively participate in the election process through monitoring, observing and documenting flaws in elections, sensitizing people on the qualities of candidates and urging them to vote wisely, and proposing ways of improving the electoral process.

In 2009, the Ugandan Parliament enacted the Regulation of Interception of Communication Bill, which has the potential to negatively affect civil society. The law allows the Government to intercept any postal, telephone, email and text message communications. However, that interception is only possible with the consent of a judge of the High Court.

On September 8, 2012, the Parliament passed the Communication Regulatory Act, 2012.  The Act gives the Uganda Communication Authority powers to create a committee that will examine complaints raised by the consumers or government against a given content provider.Such complaints range from inappropriate programming to national security concerns. It is feared that such power, if improperly used, could lead to breaches of the right to privacy and freedom of expression.

Another law that may have a negative effect on civil society is the Anti-Homosexuality Act that President Museveni assented to in February 2014. Under the provision of “Promotion of Homosexuality,” anyone who “funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities” [the phrase “other related activities” is left entirely undefined]... or who acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in anyway abets homosexuality and related practices” is subject to criminal sanction.  This law may be interpreted broadly enough that any CSO advocating for gay rights could be considered to be engaging in a “related practice” that promotes or abets homosexuality, thereby subjecting that CSO to criminal punishment.

Barriers to International Contact

Under the law CSOs are allowed to contact and cooperate with colleagues in civil society, business and government sectors, both within and outside the country (Article 29 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda). However, Regulation 13 (a) of the NGO Registration Regulations 2009 provides that an organization shall not make any direct contact with the people in any part of the rural area of Uganda unless it has given seven days’ notice in writing of its intention to the local council committee and the Resident District Commissioner of the area.

The law does not impose restrictions on participating in networks or accessing the Internet or World Wide Web.

There are no legal provisions requiring advance notice of international cooperation, or prohibiting conferences or restricting travel. Article 29 (2) of the Constitution guarantees every person the right to free movement in and outside Uganda. 

Barriers to Resources

The law requires all organizations receiving monies in convertible currency to open and operate an external bank account with the Bank of Uganda (government-controlled bank) in which the currency is deposited and through which transactions are conducted (Regulation 15 (3) of the NGO Registration Regulation, 2009). The requirement is not perceived as a problem per se since it is not strictly enforced. In practice, many NGOs do not even have the said account, and the government has not sought to strictly enforce it. 

Barriers to Assembly

The Public Order Management Act came into effect in October 2013 and includes several impediments.

Time, Place and Manner Restrictions. Section 5(2)(c) of the Act restricts the time of public meetings (except town hall meetings) to between 7:00am and 7:00pm. Sections 12 & 13 envision restricted areas where entry is prohibited, such as the Parliament building, State House and Lodges countrywide, international airports and courts. [State House refers to the official residence(s) of the President of Uganda in Kampala, while State Lodges are scattered throughout the country.]

Grounds for Refusal of Permission and Dispersal. Section 6(1) presumes that it would not be possible to hold a proposed public meeting because ‘notice of another public meeting on the date, at the time and at the venue proposed has already been received by the authorized officer; or the venue is considered unsuitable for purposes of crowd and traffic control or will interfere with other lawful business’.According to section 6(3) where an authorized officer notifies the organizer that it is not possible to hold a proposed meeting on the date or at the venue proposed, the meeting shall not be held on that date or at that venue. Section 7(2) provides for the dispersal of a spontaneous gathering for similar reasons. Section 8 authorizes the responsible officer with powers to stop or prevent the holding of a public meeting when held contrary to the Act, and to order the dispersal of a public meeting where ‘reasonable in the circumstances’.

Requirements on Organizers and Participants. The Act imposes potentially burdensome requirements on the organizers and participants of a public meeting. Section 10 makes it mandatory for organizers to provide sufficient stewards proportionate to the number of participants; ensure that the public meeting is concluded peacefully before 7:00 p.m.; co-operate and co-ordinate with the police to ensure that all participants are unarmed and peaceful; and that peace and order are maintained.  Participants are required to act in a manner that ensures obstruction of traffic, confusion or disorder is avoided. Failure to comply with these requirements is subject to criminal prosecution and liability.

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Reports

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports Not available yet.
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs Uganda
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes Uganda
U.S. State Department

2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Uganda
Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports, 2009: Uganda

Failed States Index Reports Foreign Policy: Failed States Index 2012
IMF Country Reports Uganda and the IMF
International Commission of Jurists Not available
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library Uganda

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News and Additional Resources

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

General News

Government to Track NGO Cash (May 2014)
New legislation, the Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) Registration (amendment) Bill 2014, has been approved by Cabinet. Through the bill, Cabinet seeks to enhance documentation of funding for NGOs and their source of funds and enhance tracking mechanisms of their activities. Addressing a news conference at the Uganda Media Centre on May 29, Rose Namayanja, the Minister of Information and National Guidance, said government has been exploring ways of shielding Uganda from undocumented inflow and outflow of funds for NGOs. Namayanja said undocumented funds cause difficulties in forecasting exchange rates, money laundering, tax evasion and raise the possibility of such resources being directed towards fanning instability.

Uganda's LGBTI community needs the UN now more than ever
(May 2014)
On 24 February 2014, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda signed the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 into law. The law came into force on 10 March 2014. At the UN level, the Secretary-General condemned the development, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement raising concerns with the law. By contrast, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has remained largely silent. A recent article has called upon the UNHRC to act more decisively to compel the Ugandan government to change its position on this law.

Analysis of 'Anti-gay Law' in Uganda (March 2014)
LGBT and other human rights campaigners in Uganda and around the world are deeply concerned that the draconian 'Anti-gay Law' creates a sweeping new crime in terms so broad that it could be used to prosecute any actively gay person, as well as being a gift to anyone who wants to make a malicious accusation. In addition it raises the threat of “mob” vigilantism and a massive crackdown on civil society organizations and individual advocates of LGBT rights.

Demystifying the Public Order Management Bill (August 2013)
Nicholas Opio, the incumbent Secretary of the Uganda Law Society, describes Public Order Management Bill (Pomb) as "…a law that grants the police powers to regulate meetings in public places, public roads or even private places, at which the failure of the government and their policies or any political parties, are to be discussed." He adds that it is “a law giving the police the mandate to regulate meetings at which petitions to the government are to be drafted by a pressure group.” In essence, this bill gives the police the right to control and give or deny consent to any meeting they consider as holding political interest.

Uganda Announces Directive for All NGOs to Re-Register (September 2013)
This new request is not necessarily related to the Public Order Management Bill, but the timing may indicate some relation to the Bill.

Students Protest the Public Order Management Bill (August 2013)
On August 19, students at Makerere University held a rally, which they say was meant as a press conference for the launch of a campaign against Public Order Management Bill. The police used teargas to disperse the gathered representatives from civil society organizations, as well as members of parliament. "We were arrested for holding a rally that the police claim was illegal. They roughed us up and drove us to a police station where we were locked up," said Adeke, the university guild president.

Public Order Management Bill passed (August 2013)
Uganda passed The Public Order Management bill was passed, despite fierce criticism from religious leaders, opposition MPs and the public as well as rights groups. One of the most problematic provisions of the bill is that police approval will be required if three or more people want to gather publicly to discuss political issues. In addition, police must receive written notice of public meetings seven days in advance and such meetings may only take place between 06:00 and 18:00. The police are entitled to turn down requests for meetings on grounds that the venue is already being used, is considered unsuitable or "any other reasonable cause". The police may also use firearms against those resisting arrest.

Uganda charges opposition figure over rallies (July 2013)
Uganda's leading opposition figure, Kizza Besigye, was arrested on suspicion he intended to stage "illegal rallies". Activists from a group banned by the government said they were planning protests against what they see as unfair taxes on piped water and kerosene. Besigye has been detained several times since he championed opposition demonstrations over high fuel and food prices in 2011 that were crushed by the security forces, leaving at least nine people dead. Opposition groups have stepped up their campaign against President Yoweri Museveni's government, a move which has coincided with police re-starting frequent arrests of Besigye and other opposition figures.

Public Order Management Bill amended (May 2013)
Members of the public seeking to hold public meetings will now have to notify the police within three days -- not seven days as before -- before they can be allowed to go on with the meetings or demonstrations. The development comes as Parliament debates the controversial Public Order Management Bill 2011.

Halt Crackdown on Media Houses in Kampala (May 2013)
A crackdown on prominent media institutions in Uganda today chillingly illustrates the limits of press freedoms and must be halted immediately. As police conduct raids on the premises of four media offices and blocked the broadcast of two radio stations, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative join with other civil society organizations in Uganda in condemning the raids and calling for respect of freedom of expression and media freedoms.On the morning of May 20, 2013 Ugandan Police began raids on the offices of the Monitor Publications Limited (MPL) in Namuwongo, Kampala, as well as those of the Red Pepper Newspaper in Namanve, a suburb neighbouring Kampala. Broadcasts of the MPL-owned English-language KFM Radio 93.3 and Luganda-language Dembe FM 90.4 were blacked out into the afternoon

Civil Society Calls for Tougher Laws On Small Arms Trade (January 2013)
The East Africa Action Network on small arms (EAANSA) has called for tougher laws and increased vigilance among member states of the East African community (EAC) to curb illegal movement of small arms and light weapons. According to the executive secretary EAANSA, Richard Mugisha, considering that the dynamics and movement of small arms and light weapons (SALWs) transcend the political boarders that divide state parties within East Africa, there is need for increased vigilance and concerted effort between and among member states in the EAC to control and manage illicit SALWs. "We need to continue fostering partnerships between government institutions and civil society organizations for joint planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes to curb illicit small arms and light weapons," said Mugisha during meeting at Grand Botanical Hotel in Entebbe.

NGOs hit back at Museveni remarks (December 2012)
President Museveni instructed the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate two NGOs- Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (Acode) and Africa Institute for Energy Governance. The President warned the two NGOs against undermining national interests during a speech delivered in Parliament in mid-December. The two NGOs were instrumental in advocating for transparency in the execution of oil contracts and criticism of the oil bills.

CSOs fault Museveni on corruption (December 2012)
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Uganda have asked President Yoweri Museveni to extend his iron hand on all government officials involved in stealing public funds at the expense of the Ugandan citizens.

OPM scandal hurts civil society (November 2012)
Richard Sewakiryanga is Executive Director of the Uganda National NGO Forum, part of a coalition of non-governmental organisations that have been calling for action against corruption. But he is worried that he could be next target of a sweeping move by donors against Uganda over concern that money meant for the deprived is being swindled by government officials. "Even us in civil society, getting financial support now is becoming difficult, our donors think all money sent to Uganda is misused," Sewakiryanga said. Sewakiryanga's concern follows the news that Britain has joined the growing list of countries that have slammed the aid doors shut on Uganda after the office of the Prime Minister (OPM) failed to account for nearly Shs 50bn."

Civil society advocacy in Uganda: Lessons learned (November 2012)
The Aspen Institute published the report on lessons learnt on advocacy in Uganda.

Ugandans demand action as donors halt aid over graft (November 2012)
Four major donors have suspended millions of dollars of aid to the prime minister's office. They acted after it emerged that $13 million intended for some of Uganda's poorest regions had ended up in officials' private bank accounts. Britain, Denmark, Ireland and Norway halted the funds after a report last month by Uganda's auditor general showed that money intended to help develop areas left devastated by the war against the Lord's Resistance Army rebels had been stolen.

Efforts to expedite the Anti-Homosexuality bill (November 2012)
The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, vowed to “expedite the debate of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.” The resolve to expedite the Anti-Homosexuality Bill comes after an altercation with the Canada Foreign Minister at the Inter Parliamentary Union conference on “Citizenship, Identity and Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in a Globalised World” in Quebec. The Speaker defended the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and explained that it is a private members bill. She also denied claims of gay persecution in Uganda,

On 50th anniversary of independence, civil society under pressure (November 2012)
British rule over Uganda came to an end on October 9, 1962. More than half a century later, the African nation still has not made the transition to genuine democracy. The government adopts a antagonistic attitude to NGOs. Activists who campaign for the rights of sexual minorities bear the brunt of such hostility. It was pressure from the international community that forced the regime to abandon this draconian bill. Such pressure is still needed. "We need support, urgently." said Clare Byarugaba from the NGO Civil Society Coalition, which fights for gay rights in Uganda. "We believe that draft law was scrapped because the government was worried about its image," the young activist believes.

Government launches NGO policy (October 2012)
The government launched the national NGO policy on Friday September 28, 2012 aimed at local NGOs and donors. The policy is intended to “guide and regulate the operations of civil society organisations.”  The policy also aims at enabling the government to effectively monitor the integrity, accountability and transparency of NGOs.

Government intimidating civil society, says human rights body (September 2012)
Civil society organizations operating in Uganda are the target of state inspired threats and intimidation, a new report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said. According to the report released yesterday, several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Uganda have “recently faced forced closure of meetings, threats, harassment, arrest, and punitive bureaucratic interference” from President Museveni’s administration in the midst of rising political tensions and public criticism of the leader’s record since his re-election in February 2011. The report said NGOs that are reeling from this clampdown are those whose focus includes oil revenue, transparency, land acquisition compensation, legal and governance reform, and protection of human rights, particularly the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Curtailing criticism: Intimidation and obstruction of civil society in Uganda (August 2012) Research and advocacy organizations in Uganda that deal with controversial topics are facing increasing harassment by Uganda’s government, Human Rights Watch said in a report. Groups have recently faced forced closure of meetings, threats, harassment, arrest, and punitive bureaucratic interference. The Ugandan government should end its hostile rhetoric and repeated obstructions of nongovernmental organizations.

Government harms and criminalizes the legal activities of a Women's Human Rights NGO (July 2012)
The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) has expressed deep concern regarding the safety of five staff from the Uganda sex worker organization, Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA). The staff members face ongoing harassment and criminal charges. WHRD IC believes the detention, seizure and raid on the organization’s offices were arbitrary. They also consider the act of arresting and charging WONETHA’s staff members as an attempt to criminalize the legal activities of the women's human rights organization.

EU urges Uganda not to stifle CSOs (July 2012)
The EU has urged the Ugandan government not to stifle Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) operating in the country as this will limit the growth of democracy and other civil liberties in the country. Addressing guests at the national launch of the Democracy Torch in Kampala, the Charge d’Affairs at the European Union, Ms Anna Carin Platon, said, “There has recently been growing concern among CSOs about threats of de-registering by government. Although it is undoubted that the government has a duty to regulate and the CSOs have a duty to follow the regulations, the exercise of this duty shouldn’t have the effect of stifling the role of CSOs,” Ms Platon said.

Government launches NGO Policy (July 2012)
The Government has launched the national NGO policy to guide and regulate the operations of civil society organizations. Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi called upon the program managers of organizations to align their activities with the Government programs. “I call upon NGOs and their different funders to embrace the National Development Plan and co-ordinate their different prioritization and budgeting with both central and decentralized implementation processes within the Government,” he said.

Government imposes limits on hiring expatriates (July 2012)
The government has banned international and local NGOs operating in the country from employing foreigners unless they show proof that no Ugandan matches the skills of the expatriate staff. This follows new immigration rules which require foreign professionals intending to practice in Uganda to be evaluated for competence by local professional registration bodies. Amb. Gabriel Kangwagye, the NGO registration board chairperson, said that not-for-profit groups solicit money from donors under the guise of helping the under-privileged, and they should not saturate local job market by employing their own. NGOs, however, ask whether the rules will be applied uniformly, and why the government itself has tolerated wide disparities in remuneration of public officials to the disadvantage of those with equal or higher qualification, resulting in brain drain.

NGOs tell government: You can ban us, but not the issues (July 2012)
Threats by the government to deregister NGOs involved in what the government calls “negative political activism” have been dismissed as an exercise in futility. Reacting to renewed pressure on NGOs, civil society leaders have told The Observer that closing their NGOs would achieve nothing because the issues they raise can still be articulated without any formal organization. “NGOs are by nature citizen organizations. One can close them, but you can’t close the causes they espouse. These can continue even without an organization,” said Richard Ssewakiryanga, executive director of the Uganda National NGO Forum.

Government assures NGOs on closure threats (July 2012)
The government has moved to allay fears of NGOs operating in Uganda that they will not be deregistered as reported by the media. Speaking during a meeting in Kampala organized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs the chairperson of Non-governmental Organizations Board, Gabriel Kangwagye, denied the rumors circulating among the NGO that government plans to deregistered some NGOs. Kangwagye assured the NGOs that the government cannot deregister them because they play a supplementary role of the government mandate. He however informed the NGO leaders that government has instituted new structures of communication and monitoring right from the sub-county to national level.

Space for civil society shrinking in Uganda say national and global CSOs (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). For example, on June 18, a skills-building workshop for LGBTI human rights defenders organised by EHAHRDP was closed down after police raided the training venue. Two weeks earlier, on June 1, 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 addition, the Ugandan Parliament is currently considering the Public Order Management Bill 2011, which would place a number of restrictions on the freedom of assembly.

Jinja halts NGO registration (April 2012)
Local government authorities in the Jinja district in southeastern Uganda temporarily suspended the registration of NGOs.  The development is part of efforts to hold NGOs accountable following allegations that many of the NGOs in the district failed to implement their stated objectives.  Five NGOs in the district are facing closure. 

Bank of Uganda probes civil society accounts (April 2012)
The Central Bank of Uganda has ordered the probe/investigation of financial accounts of a prominent NGO think tank, the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE).  ACODE has in the past been very critical of government dealings, such as the proposed and failed sale of Mabira forests and oil contracts.

Unresolved concerns on freedoms of assembly, association and expression (March 2012)
The UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group adopted Uganda's report at its 19th NPR session on March 16, 2012. Uganda will be required to confirm its stance on the recommendations and to give an update on how far the country has gone to implement the recommendations that it accepted. Incidents of the government preventing or forcefully dispersing peaceful assembly continue to be recorded in Uganda. For instance, on January 19, 2012, members of the CSO Action for Change were arrested for holding a peaceful rally against corruption and economic hardships. On February 14, 2012, the Minister of Ethics and Integrity entered a capacity building workshop organized by a gay rights organization and illegally closed it.

Government drafts new media bill (March 2012)
The government has drafted a new Bill aimed at regulating broadcasters and telecommunication service providers in the country. The new Bill titled: "The Uganda Communications Regulatory Authority Bill, 2012" further tightens license procedures for radio and television and prohibits any broadcasting which infringes upon the privacy of any individual or which contains false information.

"Illegal" LGBT rights workshop raided by Minister of Ethics and Integrity (February 2012)
A Ugandan minister raided a workshop run by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) CSO members in Entebbe. Accompanied by police, the Minister for Ethics and Integrity announced that the workshop was illegal and ordered the members out of the hotel where the workshop was being held. He told them that if they did not leave immediately, he would use force against them. Among the CSO members was Kasha Jacqueline Nabagasera, a prominent LGBT rights activist and winner of the 2011 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. She was forced to flee from the hotel to escape arrest. This incident comes days after an Anti-Homosexuality Bill was re-tabled in the Ugandan Parliment.

News Archive

UHRC rejects bill against public gatherings (November 2011)

UHRC drafted public order bill, says Government (October 2011)

Government-backed harassment and repression of critics increasing (October 2011) 

Govt tables tough public order management Bill (October 2011)

Uganda's Human Rights record under scrutiny (October 2011) 

Media and civil society organisations under threat - report (June 2011) 

Discussion held about changes in legislative framework (May 2011) 

Government wants public order bill passed (May 2011)

Museveni's swearing in amid crackdown on the opposition and human rights violations (May 2011)

Ugandan NGOs decry government’s violent response to protests (April 2011) 

Do Ugandans have the right to walk? (April 2011) 

Journalists attacked during elections in Uganda (February 2011) 

Uganda gay rights activist David Kato killed (January 2011)

Secretary of State remarks on murder of Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato (January 2011)

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The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL NGO Law Monitor partner in Uganda, Livingstone Sewanyana and Josephine Ndagire, of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI).