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NGO Bureau halts operation of election observers coalition body

By Jeff Andrew Lule

Added 30th October 2020 10:26 AM

Ezaga said the NEW-U is not registered with the NGO-Bureau as required by law.

NGO Bureau halts operation of election observers coalition body

Patrick Onen Ezaga, the bureau’s Senior Communications Officer. File/ Photo

Ezaga said the NEW-U is not registered with the NGO-Bureau as required by law.

ELECTION WATCH | NGO-BUREAU | NEW-U

The National Bureau of the Non-Government Organisation (NGO-Bureau) has halted the activities of National Election Watch Uganda (NEW-U) an election observers loose coalition, which had been created ahead of the 2021 general elections.

The bureau says the body was operating illegally.

Addressing journalists at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala Thursday (October 29, 2020), the bureau's Senior Communications Officer, Patrick Onen Ezaga, said they learnt NEW-U from its two press statements released on September 6th and 15th and its launch on September 10th, 2020.

This prompted investigations into the organization which had its secretariat at the Uganda National NGO Forum.

Ezaga said the NEW-U is not registered with the NGO-Bureau as required by law.

He said following a meeting with the NGO Forum and representatives of the NEW-U on October 2020, it was established that NEW-U is a loose coalition that was established by 60 organisations that proceeded to commence its operations without incorporation, registration, and permission to operate.

"It lacks the legal authority/basis to transact any activity in its own capacity since it would not be liable for its actions. UNNGOF was providing the secretariat for the otherwise illegal entity," he added.

He stressed that whereas the UNNGOF and some of the organisations which are valid were accredited by the Electoral Commission in their own right to be election observers in the forthcoming polls, there was no such accreditation for NEW-U.

He noted that the bureau also proceeded to verify the status of the organisations subscribing to NEW-U, and discovered that 65 organisations were subscribing to the coalition rather than the 60 reported by UNNGOF.

They also discovered that only 42 of 65 organisations were duly registered with the NGO Bureau, possess valid permits of operation, were updated, and appear in the Updated National NGO Register (UNNR).

"The NGO Bureau decided to halt the operations of NEW-U with immediate effect hence there would be no further activities and statements," Ezaga said.

He said the move by the bureau has nothing to do with elections as many want to portray.

"This organisation was launched recently. So, you wanted us to allow illegality to proceed?" he added.

He said the bureau is still investigating many organisations and would be coming out with the status report and decisions.

Ezanga said the UNNR of the bureau has 15,000 NGOs which is 30-years plus since 1989.

"Every week we publish the list of the bonafide NGOs with valid permits and it is updated every week. The reason being, some permits of operations expire while some which expire get relieved. As of now NGOs with valid permits stand at 2,311," he noted.

He noted that many organisations on the list might have collapsed or died and don't exist anymore. "That is why we are validating the list," he noted.

However, the NGO Forum said though the NGO-Bureau raised concern on the legality of NEW-U, the NGO Act 2016, does not specifically provide for the registration of coalitions.

"Previous experience shows that CSOs have formed coalitions to observe elections in Uganda without a requirement for registration. It is therefore surprising that the bureau is casting doubt on the legality of the NEW-U at this point when the country is just two months to elections," reads the NGOF joint statement.


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