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CSOs task minister on NGOs office break-ins report

By John Agaba

Added 15th December 2018 03:30 PM

Tumwine and the others asked the minister to explain why it was taking forever for law enforcement and Police to ‘conclude the investigations’ and brief them about ‘culprits’ who raided their various offices.

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Tumwine and the others asked the minister to explain why it was taking forever for law enforcement and Police to ‘conclude the investigations’ and brief them about ‘culprits’ who raided their various offices.

Internal affairs minister Gen. Jeje Odongo. Photo/File

SECURITY

KAMPALA - Civil society organisations have asked internal affairs minister Gen. Jeje Odongo for the dossier detailing findings his charge unearthed when it investigated raids and break-ins that rocked the NGO world recently.

Patrick Tumwine‎, programme coordinator at the Human Rights Network-Uganda, led the supplications during a recent meeting at Hotel Africana in Kampala, specifically tasking the minister to avail them the report.

Tumwine and the others, who filled the room, also asked the minister to explain why it was taking forever for law enforcement and Police to ‘conclude the investigations’ and brief them about ‘culprits’ who raided their various offices and made away with a number of office equipment, including computers in some instances.

But Odongo did not have a definite answer for the anxious group, mainly representatives of various NGOs. He said the ministry and Police continued to investigate the raids and would disclose report of findings once inquiries concluded.

The CSOs were unconvinced
Wokulira Ssebagala, a human rights activist, criticised government and the Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Crime Intelligence of Police for not doing enough.

“Investigations are expedited when related to the presidency and his safety and other matters that are of importance to the powers that be,” he said on Wednesday.

But sadly, law enforcement and CIID did not seem so eager when it came to investigating other issues, especially related to CSOs who are ‘perceived to be against government,” said the activist.

More than 30 office break-ins have been documented in Uganda in the last four years — the raids at Action Aid and the  Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies perhaps being most prominent.

A systemic pattern of attacks targeting legitimate work of organisations is worsening as perpetrators, with impunity, continue to remain at large.
 
“What makes the break-ins very concerning is a fact that the attackers have repeatedly targeted organisation documents and other confidential information of no ordinary financial gain,” said Leonard Okello, Chief Executive Officer for UHURU Institute of Social Development, which was also raided last year.

In a few isolated cases, thugs make away with other material including laptops, cameras, and computers — which contain sensitive information about the organisations and their clients.

Okello said there existed lots of mistrust between government and a number of NGOs, mainly those which focus on governance and leadership.

At times government looks at us as though we are competing with it. No. Our mandate is different,” he said adding: “Some NGOs seek to hold it (government) accountable. This is what government does not want.”
 
Fred Ejau from the CSO in Pallisa, said government and Police were reluctant to unveil the report because it must be the law enforcement itself who were behind or had raided the NGO offices.

But Police spokesperson Emilian Kayima said the forces had a real mandate to enforce the law, and not to be the ones breaking it.

The spokesperson said a number of people were arrested and taken to Court in relation to the break-ins.

He said a report was prepared in effect to the matter.

But he could not divulge details of investigations into the raids. He said details would be released ‘once senior management’ at the forces has perused the draft.

The quarterly meeting between the CSOs and minister for internal affairs sought to create more working harmony between the organisations and government.   

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