The National Bureau for Non-governmental Organizations (NGO Bureau) has halted operations of the National Elections Watch Uganda (NEW-U) an NGO comprising of over 60 organizations that among other duties observe electoral activities across the country.
Some of the organisations include Uganda Women Network, Center for Constitutional Governance and Women’s Democracy Network among others.
The NGO Bureau under the Ministry of Internal Affairs is mandated by the NGO Act 2016 to register, monitor, inspect, coordinate and oversee the activities of all NGOs in Uganda. As such, the Bureau officials said, NEW-U operations are illegal since the entity has been found “not registered in the country.”
Speaking to the press at Uganda Media Centre on Thursday, the Public Relations Officer NGO Bureau Patrick Ezaga revealed that the bureau recently learnt of the existence of NEW-U from two press statements released by its proprietors on September 6 and 15 and its subsequent launch on September 10, 2020.
“The NGO Bureau, upon making inquiries, found out that NEW-U had its secretariat at the Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF). It was established from the records that NEW-U is not registered with the NGO bureau,” he said.
Ezaga added that the Bureau invited the NGO forum and representatives of NEW-U for a meeting held on Thursday October 22, 2020, at Serena Hotel to ascertain the legal status of NEW-U in Uganda and it was established that NEW-U is a loose coalition established by 60 organizations which proceeded to commence its operations without incorporation, registration and permission to operate within the laws of Uganda.
“It therefore lacks the legal authority to transit any activities in its own capacity since it would not be held liable for its actions,” Ezaga said.
Secondly, Ezaga noted, whereas UNNGOF and some of the organizations which are valid were accredited by the Electoral Commission in their own right to be election observers in the forthcoming national polls, there was no such accreditation for NEW-U.
He added that after the meeting, the NGO proceeded to verify the status of the organizations subscribing to NEW-U and it was established that there are actually 65 subscribing organisations rather than 60 reported by UNNGOF and only 42 of these organizations are duly registered with the NGO Bureau.
The findings also indicated that the body possess valid permits of operation, were updated and therefore appear in the updated National NGO register (UNNR), 6 organizations are registered, have valid permits of operation but are not updated by UNNR and 11 are not registered with the NGO bureau.
Ezaga further warned NGOs that are not registered by the bureau and proceed to operate without legalizing their status under the relevant law of Uganda.
“Further action shall be taken on the NGOs that were found to have participated in such an otherwise illegal arrangement. This also applies to those that have had previously formed such loose coalitions and have not yet legalized their status to date,” Ezaga warned.
Ezaga called upon both stake and non-stake holders to be cognizant of this and avoid having any engagements with organizations that have not legalized their status.