Ugandan FlagCivic Freedom Monitor: Uganda

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated 15 August 2017

Update: On May 5, 2017, the Minister of Internal Affairs issued two Statutory Instruments under Section 55 of the NGO Act, 2016 to operationalize the NGO Act, 2016. They were Statutory Instrument 2017 No. 22 called The NGO Regulations, 2017, which replaced the NGO Regulations, 2007; and Statutory Instrument, 2017 No. 21 called The NGO (Fees) Regulations, 2017. The President assented to the NGO Act, 2016 on January 30, 2016 and it has now come into effect with the issuance of these two Statutory Instruments.

Introduction

Civil society organizations (CSOs) play an active role in Uganda. For example, they have spearheaded the reform of electoral laws ahead of the 2016 general elections through a coalition called Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU). All proposed reforms are awaiting debate in Parliament. Moreover, many NGOs in Uganda are dedicated to the protection of rights (e.g., African Centre for Torture Victims, The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative), which are rooted in international instruments and the Bill of Rights in Uganda’s Constitution.

Recent legislation is unfortunately narrowing the legal space for civil society in Uganda.  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, which was nullified in August 2014, would have posed grave threats to NGOs engaging in any advocacy work for gay rights. Section 13 of the Anti-Homosexuality Act criminalized any person who "promotes homosexuality,” which may have been interpreted to include NGOs that advocate for gay rights. The Prohibition of Promotion of Unnatural Sexual Practices Bill, which was introduced in October 2014 is, however, similar in spirit to the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Moreover, on January 30, 2016, the President assented to the Non-Governmental Organisations Act, 2016 (NGO Act, 2016). This Act poses a threat to the right to freedom of association. Section 44 of the Act prohibits NGOs from carrying out activities in any part of the country unless they have approval from the District Non-Governmental Monitoring Committee (DNMC) and the local government and have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to that effect. NGOs may not extend their operations to new areas unless they have received a recommendation from the National Bureau for NGOs through the DNMC of that area. Furthermore, the Act requires an NGO to have MoUs with all donors, sponsors, affiliates and foreign partners that specify the terms and conditions of ownership, employment, resources mobilized for the NGO and any other relevant matter. In addition, Section 5 establishes a National Bureau for NGOs that is granted broad powers, which under Section 7 includes the power to revoke an NGO’s permit.

On May 5, 2017, the Minister of Internal Affairs issued two statutory instruments under Section 55 of the NGO Act, 2016 to operationalize the NGO Act, 2016: Statutory Instrument, 2017 No. 22 called the NGO Regulations, 2017, which replaced the NGO Regulations, 2007; and Statutory Instrument, 2017 No. 21, called the NGO (Fees) Regulations, 2017. The President assented to the NGO Act, 2016 on January 30, 2016, and it came into effect with the issuance of these two statutory instruments.

Section 4 of the NGO Regulations, 2017 provides for burdensome requirements for an NGO seeking to register with the National Bureau of NGOs. These include the requirements of having: a certified copy of a certificate of incorporation; a copy of the organization’s constitution; a chart showing the organization’s governance structure, proof of payment of a prescribed fee, sources of funding, and copies of a valid identification document for at least two founder members; the minutes and resolutions of members authorizing the organization to register with the NGO Bureau; a statement of compliance with Section 45 of the NGO Act (staffing requirements); and a recommendation from the responsible Ministry or government department or agency or, in the case of a Community-Based Organization, a recommendation of the District NGO Monitoring Committee.

To renew a permit, Section 12 of the NGO Regulations, 2017 also prescribes for a range of documents to be furnished to the NGO Bureau. Among these is a copy of audited accounts; a copy of the annual report; minutes of an annual general assembly or the governing body; a work plan and budget or strategic plan; and evidence of payment of prescribed fees.

In addition, on March 16, 2017, during the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Uganda’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcome was adopted. The Government of Uganda accepted a total of 148 recommendations while 78 recommendations were noted. Several of the recommendations to amend restrictive legislation, such as the Non-Governmental Organisations Act, 2016 and Public Order Management Act, 2013, were not accepted by the Government. Similarly, recommendations to de-criminalize homosexuality and a recommendation to cease harassment and arbitrary detention of political opposition leaders and supporters were also not accepted.

As reflected in the aforementioned developments, the legal framework for civil society in Uganda is mostly supportive of NGOs only insofar as an NGO's sphere of activity is politically and socially acceptable to the Government.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), trusts, and community based organizations (CBOs)
Registration Body NGOs and CBOs: National Bureau for NGOs
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. The National Bureau for NGOs has broad powers that include the ability to refuse to register an NGO. Upon registration or incorporation, NGOs are required to apply for a permit with the National Bureau for NGOs, which is issued for up to five years at the discretion of the Bureau. The Bureau has broad powers that include the ability to refuse to register an NGO or issue a permit.
Barriers to Activities NGOs must seek prior approval from the District NGO Monitoring Committee (DNMC) and Local Government of the area of operation and sign a Memorandum of Understanding before carrying out activities in any part of the country. Before extending activities to a new geographical area of the country, NGOs must receive a recommendation from the NGO Bureau through the DNMC of that area. NGOs must cooperate with local councils, DNMCs and Sub-Country NGO Monitoring Committees (SNMCs). NGOs are subject to detailed requirements relating to staffing. Involuntary dissolution is by order of the High Court.
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

Burdensome requirements on the hiring of non-citizens.

Barriers to Resources All foreign funding must be received in the Bank of Uganda (government bank).

NGO to have MoUs with all donors, sponsors, affiliates and foreign partners that specify the terms and conditions of ownership, employment, resources mobilized for the NGO and any other relevant matter.
Barriers to Assembly Police approval required for public gatherings.

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Key Indicators

Population 34.6 million (As per the National Population and Housing Census 2014 Report)
Capital Kampala
Type of Government Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth

Male: 62.2 years
Female: 64.2 years (2014)

Literacy Rate

Male: 77.4%
Female: 67.6% (2014)

Religious Groups Roman Catholic: 39.3%; Anglican: 32%; Muslim: 13.7%; Evangelical: 11.1%; other: 3.7%; none: 0.2% (2014 census)
Ethnic Groups Baganda 16.5%; Banyakole 9.6%; Basoga 8.8%; Bakiga 7.1%; Iteso 7.0%; Langi 6.3%; Bagisu 4.9%; Acholi 4.4%; Lugbara 4.4%; other 32.1% (2014 census)
GDP per capita $637 (2014)

Source: National Population and Housing Census 2014, Uganda Bureau of Statistics.

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale 
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 163 (2015) 1 – 182
World Bank Rule of Law Index 39.9 (2014) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 30 (2014) 100 – 0
Transparency International 139 (2015) 1 – 175
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Not Free
Political Rights: 6
Civil Liberties: 5 (2017)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
Rank: 24 (2017)
178 – 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
Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP2) No --
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 against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) Yes 1986
Optional Protocol to CAT 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
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) No --
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 Yes 2010
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights Yes 2001
African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance No --

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

Constitutional Framework

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

Article 29. 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 citizen 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

1. During the February 18, 2016 general elections, the government shut down social media. After the elections, the government then presented the Uganda Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill seeks to amend section 93(1) of the Uganda Communications Act, 2013 to remove the requirement for parliamentary approval of regulations made by the Minister of Communications. If the new Bill is approved by Parliament, it will give the Minister of Communications the power to control communications with wide discredition without approval from Parliament. This will erode the principle of checks and balances that section 93(1) of the Uganda Communications Act, 2013 sought to prevent.

2. 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."

3. In February 2014, President Yoweri Museveni 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. In August 2014, the Act was nullified on the technicality of a lack of quorum.

However, on October 29, 2014, Parliament re-introduced a bill, The Prohibition of Promotion of Unnatural Sexual Practices Bill, which criminalizes engaging in and the promotion of homosexuality. Unlike the previous Anti-Homosexuality Act, this bill criminalizes sex with or between transsexuals and the funding or sponsoring anyone who has the intent to promote an "unnatural" sexual practice.  The Bill would pose a threat to persons that "promote” homosexuality, which could be widely interpreted to include both NGOs that advocate for gay rights as well as their donor partners.

4. In December 2015, Parliament tabled the Human Rights Enforcement Bill, 2015. The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to article 50(4) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 by providing for the procedure of enforcing human rights under Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995.

5. During the consultative process on the NGO Act, 2016, a decision was made to separate faith-based organizations from NGOs. As a result, a process has been started to create a regulatory framework for faith-based organizations. The Directorate for Ethics and Integrity drafted and circulated a concept note for the development of the National Policy on Faith-Based Organizations in Uganda in April 2016.

7. In July 2016, civil society initiated the drafting of a Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill. The draft bill is currently undergoing consultations.

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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 Act, 2016, which was gazetted on April 10, 2015. According to Section 3 of the Act, an organization is defined in the bill to mean "a legally constituted non-governmental organization under the Act."

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.

The NGO Act, 2016 defines a CBO as “an organisation operating at a subcounty level and below whose objectives is to promote and advance the wellbeing of the members of the community” (Section 3). CBOs are registered with the National Bureau for NGOs through the DNMCs and SNMCs (Sections 20, 21 and 29).

Public Benefit Status

The NGO Act, 2016 in Section 4(d) states that one of the "Object[ive]s of the Act" is to "provide the development of strong organizations and to facilitate the formation and effective function of organisations for public benefit purposes."

Notably, 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


Section 29(1) of the NGO Act, 2016 requires NGOs, including all "private voluntary groupings of individuals" to formally register with the National Bureau of NGOs. Similarly, registration is required of all Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), defined as organizations operating at the "sub county level and below whose objectives [are] to promote and advance the well-being of its members or community," and all Self-Regulatory Bodies (SRBs). Moreover, Section 35(1) requires all organizations registered at the time the Act takes effect to re-register under the new law within six months.

Sections 20 and 21 establish District NGO Monitoring Committees (DNMCs) and Sub-county NGO Monitoring Committees (SNMCs). One of the functions of the DNMCs is to consider applications for registration by CBOs while SNMCs are mandated to recommend CBOs to the DNMC for registration.

There are penalties for carrying out activities through unregistered organizations in Section 40 of the NGO Act, 2016.

Burdensome registration procedures


NGOs must submit a registration application to the National Bureau for NGOs. Applications must be accompanied by specification of the operations of the organization, area of intended operation, staffing of the organization, geographical area of coverage, location of the organization’s headquarters and date of expiry of the previous permit. 

Section 4 of the NGO Regulations, 2017 provides for burdensome requirements for an NGO seeking to register with the National Bureau of NGOs. These include the requirements of having: a certified copy of a certificate of incorporation; a copy of the organization’s constitution; a chart showing the organization’s governance structure, proof of payment of a prescribed fee, sources of funding, and copies of a valid identification document for at least two founder members; the minutes and resolutions of members authorizing the organization to register with the NGO Bureau; a statement of compliance with Section 45 of the NGO Act (staffing requirements); and a recommendation from the responsible Ministry or government department or agency or, in case of a Community-Based Organization, a recommendation of the District Non-Governmental Organizations Monitoring Committee.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


According to the NGO Act, 2016, NGOs must submit a registration application to the National Bureau for NGOs. Applications must be accompanied by specification of the operations of the organization, area of intended operation, staffing of the organization, geographical area of coverage, location of the organization's headquarters and date of expiry of the previous permit.

To renew a permit, Section 12 of the NGO Regulations, 2017 also prescribes for a range of documents to be furnished to the NGO Bureau. Among these is a copy of audited accounts; a copy of the annual report; minutes of an annual general assembly or the governing body; a work plan and budget or strategic plan; and evidence of payment of prescribed fees.

Marginalized groups

Section 30(1)(a) of NGO Act, 2016 states that an "organisation shall not be registered under this Act, where the objectives of the organisation as specified in its constitution are in contravention of the laws of Uganda." Section 31 would allow the government to deny registration to groups advocating for changes in the law. Similar language has been used to deny registration to groups advocating for LGBT rights because homosexuality is considered illegal in Uganda. However, recent court rulings in Botswana and Kenya have reaffirmed that the freedom of association includes the rights of LGBT people to form organizations.

Barriers to Operational Activity

Staffing requirements


Section 45 of the NGO Act, 2016 provides that an NGO shall comply with certain staffing regulations. It is a requirement for every NGO to submit to the National Bureau for NGOs a chart showing its structure and staffing and specifying the following: its foreign work 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.

Permissions

Section 31(5) and (6) of the NGO Act, 2016 requires that, in addition to obtaining registration status, an organization also apply for and obtain an operating permit from the National Bureau for NGOs. Under Section 31(6) permits are issued for some unspecified period of time "not exceeding five years," and for an unspecified "prescribed fee" paid annually.

Special Obligations

Section 44 of the NGO Act, 2016 imposes a list of “special obligations” on all registered organizations, which include obligations to “co-operate with the local councils in the area” as well as the relevant monitoring committees; to “not engage in any act which is prejudicial to the security and laws of Uganda” or that is “prejudicial to the interests of Uganda and the dignity of the people of Uganda”; and to “be nonpartisan …,” among others.

Inspections and Monitoring

Section 27of the NGO Act, 2016 allows the Auditor General to conduct involuntary inspections and request “any information” that appears “necessary for purposes of giving effect to this Act.” Sections 20 and 21 create two additional layers of governmental oversight at the sub-national level: District Non-Governmental Organisations, Monitoring Committees (DNMCs), and Subcounty Non-Governmental Organisations Monitoring Committees (SNMCs). Among other functions, both are authorized to “monitor and provide information to the Board regarding the activities and performance of organizations.”

Criminal Penalties

Section 40 of the NGO Act, 2016 provides imprisonment for anyone who "fails or refuses to produce to the Bureau a certificate, permit, constitution, charter or other relevant document or information relevant for the purposes of this Act."

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

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

NGOs 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 NGOs in law making, NGOs in practice do engage in legislative activities. For instance, once a bill is tabled in Parliament, various stakeholders, including NGOs, are invited to share their views through consultative meetings, workshops and other means.

At the same time, however, NGOs 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. 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 aslo 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 would have had a negative effect on civil society was the ,bt 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 could 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. In August 2014, the Act was nullified on the technicality of a lack of quorum. However, on October 29, 2014, Parliament re-introduced a bill, The Prohibition of Promotion of Unnatural Sexual Practices Bill, which criminalizes engaging in and the promotion of homosexuality. Unlike the previous Anti-Homosexuality Act, this Bill criminalizes sex with or between transsexuals and the funding or sponsoring anyone who has the intent to promote an "unnatural" sexual practice.  The Bill would pose a threat to persons that "promote” homosexuality, which could be widely interpreted to include both NGOs that advocate for gay rights as well as their donor partners. It remains pending as of February 2015.

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

Barriers to International Contact

Under the law NGOs 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).

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. However, Section 45 of the NGO Act requires organizations, upon application of a permit, to submit to the Bureau a chart showing its organisation structure as stipulated in its constitution, accompanied by a statement specifying its foreign staff requirements where necessary, indicating its requirements of Ugandan counterparts of the foreign employees, and the period for the replacement of its foreign employees with qualified Ugandans. The NGO Act, therefore, does not allow organisations to employ permanent foreign staffing.

As noted above in the Barriers to Operations section, Section 45 of the NGO Act, 2016 imposes a series of unjustifiably burdensome requirements on the hiring of non-citizens that are better left to existing immigration and labor laws, such as the requirement to ensure that all foreign employees present their "certificates, credentials and recommendations of his or her academic and professional qualifications and proven work experience" to the Ugandan diplomatic mission in his or her country of origin prior to entering Uganda.

Barriers to Resources

There are no significant barriers to resources in Uganda.

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 The Outcome Report adopted by the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council on March 16, 2017 is not yet available on the OHCHR page, but can be accessed through the following link.
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs Uganda
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes Uganda
U.S. State Department

2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Uganda

Fragile States Index Reports Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
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

Uganda’s Deteriorating Human Rights Record up for Review (November 2016)
On November 3, the United Nations Human Rights Council will scrutinize Uganda's human rights record – a process known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). During its last review in 2011, Uganda agreed to take on a wide range of recommendations – including ensuring full respect for freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and investigating the excessive use of force and torture by security forces. It also pledged to prosecute and punish perpetrators. In this year's submission, the government declared it has made "tremendous progress in promoting respect for human rights," listing its numerous human rights desks, committees, and subcommittees on human rights in different government offices. But those offices have been largely mute on violations of free expression, assembly, and association.

Uganda's Repressive NGO Act (April 2016)
Nearly two weeks after controversially winning a fifth term, it has emerged that Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has signed a repressive law which restricts the operations of thousands of NGOs working in the country. The veteran leader signed the NGO Act, 2016, which rights groups stress contains "special obligations provisions which are vague and undefined, thus prone to abuse."

Parliament Passes Controversial NGO Bill (December 2015)
Ugandan lawmakers have passed a bill that would give authorities sweeping powers to regulate civil society, and which rights groups say will "strangle" criticism of the government. "The bill was unanimously passed," the government chief whip said after lawmakers voted at a late-night sitting. Gay rights groups are particularly worried that if the bill is passed they might be targeted in a country that has previously passed tough anti-homosexuality legislation, which was later overturned on a technicality. Groups working on sensitive issues such as oil, land ownership and corruption also fear it could stifle their efforts. "The bill ... is a hindrance to the activities of NGOs, and gives powers to the government-approved NGO board to deny some NGOs registration by hiding behind some clauses which cite public interest," one activitist said.

Bill Threatens Rights Groups (April 2015)
A proposed bill to regulate non-governmental organisations would severely curb Ugandans' basic rights. The bill would subject groups to such extensive government control and interference that could negate the very essence of freedom of association and expression. A complete version of the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Bill was published in the government gazette on April 10, 2015, and is expected to be debated in parliament soon.

Uganda Anti-gay Law Struck Down by Court (August 2014)
In front of an overflowing courtroom in Uganda's capital, Kampala, a panel of five judges announced that the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which punishes some homosexual behavior with life in prison, was invalid because it had been passed by Parliament without a proper quorum. "We're very happy," said Sylvia Tamale, a Ugandan law professor who has supported gay rights despite persistent threats and harassment. "But it's unfortunate that the court did not deal with the substantive issues that violate our rights."

Government issues statement on Anti-Homosexuality Act (July 2014)
On July 7,2014, the Government of Uganda issued a statement on the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014. The statement was to the effect that the law has been misinterpreted and that the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014, was enacted with a view to curbing open promotion of homosexuality, especially among children and other vulnerable groups. Despite the aforementioned statement, it remains unclear whether the "offence of homosexuality" as stipulated in the Act is annulled.

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.

Archived News

Demystifying the Public Order Management Bill (August 2013)

Uganda Announces Directive for All NGOs to Re-Register (September 2013)

Students Protest the Public Order Management Bill (August 2013)

Public Order Management Bill passed (August 2013)

Uganda charges opposition figure over rallies (July 2013)

Public Order Management Bill amended (May 2013)

Halt Crackdown on Media Houses in Kampala (May 2013)

Civil Society Calls for Tougher Laws On Small Arms Trade (January 2013)

NGOs hit back at Museveni remarks (December 2012)

CSOs fault Museveni on corruption (December 2012)

OPM scandal hurts civil society (November 2012)

Civil society advocacy in Uganda: Lessons learned (November 2012)

Ugandans demand action as donors halt aid over graft (November 2012)

Efforts to expedite the Anti-Homosexuality bill (November 2012)

On 50th anniversary of independence, civil society under pressure (November 2012)

Government launches NGO policy (October 2012)

Government intimidating civil society, says human rights body (September 2012)

Curtailing criticism: Intimidation and obstruction of civil society in Uganda (August 2012)

Government harms and criminalizes the legal activities of a Women's Human Rights NGO (July 2012)

EU urges Uganda not to stifle CSOs (July 2012)

Government launches NGO Policy (July 2012)

Government imposes limits on hiring expatriates (July 2012)

NGOs tell government: You can ban us, but not the issues (July 2012)

Government assures NGOs on closure threats (July 2012)

Space for civil society shrinking in Uganda say national and global CSOs (June 2012)

Jinja halts NGO registration (April 2012)

Bank of Uganda probes civil society accounts (April 2012)

Unresolved concerns on freedoms of assembly, association and expression (March 2012)

Government drafts new media bill (March 2012)

"Illegal" LGBT rights workshop raided by Minister of Ethics and Integrity (February 2012)

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).