Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Uganda have been cautioned against making irresponsible statements in regard to the presidential directive which suspended operations of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), the largest donor fund in the country.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Executive Director NGO Bureau Mr Stephen Okello warned NGOs against questioning the integrity of the presidential directive, and making conclusive commentary on the matter, lest they face dire consequences.
On January 02, 2021, President Museveni wrote a letter to the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development raising concerns regarding the operations and monitoring of DGF activities without requisite oversight by government. Museveni also recommended that Finance Minister Matia Kassaija immediately suspends activities of DGF pending restructuring of its management to include a government official. He also directed investigating bodies to probe a possibility of corruption and acts of subversion in the matter.
The directive has since attracted sharp criticism from the NGO fraternity with majority citing political reasons to be behind President Museveni’s move. The facility has been funding activities under more than 70 NGOs in Uganda.
The NGOs, according to Okello, issued near conclusive commentary on a number of issues including alleged malfunctioning of government, vote rigging and extra-judicial killings even before according due process and the relevant authorities the opportunity to investigate and consider the allegations.
“In this particular case, some NGOs have opted to join the bandwagon of those questioning the integrity of the presidential directive and the NGO Bureau, as the arm of government mandated to regulate the NGOs sector, cannot stand aloof in such circumstances. The NGO Bureau has the responsibility to call NGOs to order” the statement reads in part.
“It is very intuiting and therefore premature for some overzealous NGOs to start issuing statements and responding to matters that are still within the circles of government and are before Cabinet for consideration… the premature actions by some NGOs has created anxiety among the public without adequate facts hence precipitating uncalled for conclusions, a diversion and distraction from the concerns raised by the President” Okello said before adding; “The NGO Bureau strongly cautions NGOs to desist from uttering and using disreputable statements as any continued action in this path will certainly attract appropriate reprimands.”
The NGO Buerau boss however said the support that DGF has been extending over the years to both state and non-state actors, the NGO bureau inclusive, is not in doubt and so is the value it adds to different facets of the national development fabric.
Okello however says this support doesn’t mean that questions should not be asked and clarifications sought once there are concerns especially from the Head of State and more so, when the concerns are bound to destabilize national stability.
According to the statement, DGF has indicated that it had not received any formal communication from Kassaija to that effect. In the event that DGF had received a formal communication and established mechanisms of engaging with government, Okello says statements from the beneficiaries of it’s funding “who have become experts on the issue” aren’t necessary.
Mr Okello further adds that it is prudent for NGOs that prides in advocating for and advancing the basic tenets of the rule of law, to be the very ones negating the principles because it affects them directly.
“The affected NGOs are called upon to organize themselves and prepare a report highlighting the nature, importance of the support they were receiving and the impact of the suspension of DGF on their activities and avail such information to the investigating authorities through appropriate channels so as to guide and inform Cabinet in their deliberations.