OFFICIAL STATEMENT OF CIVIL SOCIETY LEADERS FOLLOWING OUR ANNUAL CSO LEADERS’S RETREAT HELD ON DECEMBER 14 -15, 2021
The annual civil society leaders retreat took place at the Source of the Nile Hotel, Jinja-Uganda on December 14-15, 2021. This is an annual event that provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the state of civil society in Uganda and the African continent as well as trends in governance, accountability and service delivery in our country. It is therefore in this regard that we wish to address the country on the following issues:
1. The state of civil society in the country and the continued harassment of CSOs
The 2021 retreat took place at the backdrop of escalating attacks on pro-democracy, human rights and accountability NGOs. In August 2021, the Bureau for NGOs announced the suspension or closure of operations of 54 non-governmental organizations citing non-compliance with the NGO Act. Since the Bureau announced its actions against these organizations, several attempts have been made to resolve any outstanding issues regarding non-compliance but the suspension remains in place despite many of the affected NGOs making submissions of the required documentations. It is also unfortunate that Government has failed in its cardinal responsibility to ensure that the NGO Bureau is fully constituted with a functional Board and tribunal as envisaged by the applicable law.
We therefore call upon the NGO Bureau Secretariat to lift the suspension of the affected organizations.
2. Corruption and stealing of public funds and assets
Since the launching of the Black Monday Campaign, civil society leaders across the country have been at the forefront of the campaign against corruption. Our approach has been to mobilize the citizens to take the primary responsibility to shun, name and shame and where possible pursue legal actions against corruption. However, it is unfortunate that since then, the government has consistently harassed all those that attempt to fight corruption through citizen mobilization, including previously the arrests of Black Monday activists.
It is unfortunate that in spite of official declarations, the Government has shown little or no unequivocal commitment to tackle the cancer of corruption that is eating the fabric of Ugandan society and undermining the delivery of public services to our people. The President’s recent statement that officials who steal “government money” and invest it in the country should not be subject to life style audits as long as they investment the money in the country could be (mis) interpreted as a tacit official approval of corruption.
Corruption of all forms does not only distort public policy and undermine service delivery, it is also a direct affront on our value system as a country.
3. Service delivery
We applaud every effort by Government to improve the delivery of public services in the country. Effective service delivery is important in inspiring civic participation and ensuring that Ugandans live a dignifying life.
While we welcome the progress being made on the reopening of the school system early in 2022, we believe that Ugandans are owed an explanation of how it was necessary to keep our Nation’s children out of school for this long while children across the world continued with their learning programmes. We therefore call for an independent inquiry into the handling of education during this COVID 19 pandemic as a way of ensuring that Government has the understanding and the tools to ensure uninterrupted learning for our children in any future pandemic situation.
We express solidarity with Ugandan Doctors and Health Workers who have demonstrated unparalleled resilience in the face of hostile poor working conditions and poor remuneration. In the same spirit, we condemn the arrest and harassment of Medical Interns on December 15, 2021 as they peacefully went to deliver their petition to Parliament. We call upon Parliament to inquire into who ordered such arrest and demand that those arrested be released immediately and unconditionally.
4. Respect for human rights and electoral violence
We condemn in the strongest terms the continuing violations of human rights by elements within the security forces and regime officials who attempt at rationalizing such violence. All forms of violence have no place in our society.
We also want to take this opportunity to wish all Ugandans a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Prosperous New Year.
For God and Our Country