ActionAid International Uganda has enjoyed a cordial relationship with the people and government of Uganda since 1982 - working with the most vulnerable and excluded people to improve their lives. However, this long dedicated service was on 20th September disrupted when agents of the police and other security operatives took siege of our head office in Kansanga, Kampala, cordoned and searched it for over nine hours over 2 days.
The raid took us all by surprise as it was the first time we had experienced such a magnitude of disruptive action by the government in nearly 35 years of dedicated service. We continue to experience unwarranted scrutiny and in some cases disruptions of our and partners’ activities across the country.
Ongoing Investigations and Freezing of our Bank Accounts
During the raid, which was part of a wider crackdown that affected three other civil society organisations, the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, Solidarity Uganda and the Uhuru Institute for Social Development, the police and other security agents took our working documents, confiscated computers and mobile telephones from the office and some of our staff. The confiscated items have never been returned. In addition, our Country Director and the Director of Finance were interrogated at a police facility in Naguru called the Criminal Case Tracking Task Team (CCTTT). The motive of the raid which was stated in a search warrant as suspicion over illicit financial transactions and funding of illegal activities are allegations which we roundly reject as unfounded, baseless and malicious.
Further, the Bank of Uganda, acting on a request from the Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) ordered our banker to freeze our major bank accounts, on even more outrageous allegations of ActionAid being involved in money laundering and a conspiracy to commit a felony. The frozen Bank Accounts remain inaccessible to date. No formal explanation has been provided by the bank of Uganda for this action despite our writing to them.
The Negative Impact of Government’s Actions
As its core mandate, ActionAid works to fight poverty and exclusion. We do this directly and through partners to empower communities using a human rights based approach. Our contribution to improving lives, especially of women and children living in poverty and exclusions has been curtailed by the current police actions. Some of this, is work we do in partnership with government ministries, departments and agencies like the Police Family Protection Unit to fight against and provide shelter to victims of Gender Based Violence, Local Governments, among others.
ActionAid works in direct partnerships with over 37 organisations and our work reaches 45 districts. Our critical work in gender equality, poverty reduction, anti-corruption and good governance directly reaches approximately two million children, smallholder farmers, women and young people. Our contribution to the local economy by way of direct and indirect taxes exceeds 400,000,000 Uganda shillings monthly.
The government’s high-handed actions have caused immense stress to the organisation and directly affected the over 110 Ugandans we employ and their families. Thousands of children face the risk of dropping out of school and hundreds of local groups and communities are affected by our inability to continue supporting them because our operations have been needlessly curtailed.
As we continue cooperating with the police and various other state agencies and officials of government, and as their investigations continue, the Board of ActionAid Uganda expresses deep concern over the negative effect of government’s action and the growing heavy-handedness of Uganda’s Police and other security forces whose crackdown of dissent marks a level of intolerance and discrimination that can only hurt our country’s democratic and development prospects.
- While maintaining our innocence, we as a Board are fully in support of the actions taken by our Management team and call upon different agencies of government connected to the ongoing investigations of various civil society organisations to expeditiously complete their investigations to remove the cloud of uncertainty that hurts the people living in poverty more than it does the specific organisations whose work has been disrupted.
- We are grateful for the patience and understanding of the various partners we work with from community to national level, our suppliers and service providers, as well as agencies such as URA and NSSF. We appeal for their continued forbearance during this period when we are unable to fulfil our normal obligations because of the extreme actions taken by government to freeze our bank accounts.
- We thank our funding partners for their solidarity and the great understanding they have shown about our inability to service certain obligations while we remain under this difficult situation. We ask them for continued patience as we do everything possible to unblock our accounts and ensure the release of the funds that the people from your countries have so generously extended to the people of Uganda to advance the cause of justice and development.
- We appeal to Ugandans in their diversity to take greater interest in the unfolding events in the country that will, without a doubt have a profound impact on the country’s development prospects. All Ugandans must actively participate in the ongoing discussions about proposed constitutional amendments and ensure that their views are respected by Parliament and leaders we have entrusted and have committed to respect and defend the constitution.
ActionAid assures the public of the unwavering commitment to our mandate of working towards achieving social justice, gender equality and poverty eradication by working with people living in poverty and exclusion, their communities, peoples’ organisations, activists, social movements and supporters. We would like to thank our staff who continue to work and deliver all they can, to advance our mission in very difficult circumstances. We would also like to thank local, national and international civil society organisations who have shown immense solidarity through their words of comfort. And the media for their interest and objective reporting of the unfolding events and the challenges civil society is facing.
Finally, we would like to thank the leadership of the CCTTT and the investigations team for acting in very civil ways as they go about their investigations. We believe that our cooperation with the police investigations team and through the actions that Management has taken with full Board endorsement, as well as full belief in our innocence, we shall soon overcome the disruptions and hold those responsible accountable.
ACTIONAID INTERNATIONAL UGANDA