Civil Society Organisations plead with Government not to freeze their accounts

FIA wants the accounts of Uganda Women's Network (UWONET) and national NGO forum frozen for purportedly financing terror related activities.

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In their joint statement on Sunday[Sarah Bireete] the CSOs argue that the allegations levelled against them by FIA are ‘baseless'.

The Civil Society Organisations (CSO) have asked the Government to rescind the decision by Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) to freeze the accounts of several NGO forums for allegedly financing terror activities.

FIA wants the accounts of Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) and national NGO forum frozen for purportedly financing terror related activities.

In their joint statement read by Action Aid Country Director Xavier Ejoyi on Sunday (December 13, 2020), the CSOs argue that the allegations levelled against them by FIA are ‘baseless’ and purportedly intended to delegitimize their work, blackmail them and look bad in the face of Ugandans.

“We are deeply troubled as the civil society sector about the growing smear campaign engineered to undermine our credibility and deep commitment to improving the welfare of all Ugandans. We strongly believe that nation building is a collective effort with each sector bringing their expertise and experience to the service of the nation,” Ejoyi noted.

The CSOs equated the FIA directives against them as extra-judicial orders that do not only affect their organisations but also Ugandans who benefit from them.

“We want to state that no amount of intimidation and false accusation will stop us from playing our civic responsibility,” Ejoyi said.

They also condemned what they describe as brutal attacks meted on journalists covering some of the presidential elections. 

“We believe these attacks are intended to deny citizens access to information that is essential to enabling them make informed choices,” Ejoyi said.

The CSOs want Government to exercise maximum restraint and to revert to its constitutional mandate instead of purportedly suffocating Ugandans.

“We call upon the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and her deputy Jacob Oulanya and the religious leaders to step forward and speak up against the apparent excesses of the regime and all political actors,” Ejoyi noted.

In a letter dated December 10, 2020, the Executive Director FIA Sydney Asubo asked the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to take legal proceedings against the officials of the said NGOs under Section 17A (1) of the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Act, 2015.

Asubo explained that they had received intelligence reports from one of the security agencies indicating that Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) and the national NGO forum were involved in financing terrorism activities.

FIA accuses NGO forum of using its bank accounts in Stanbic bank Uganda Limited to facilitate terrorism.  

They are 9030005662019, 9030005662027 and 9030015821956. Others are in the Standard Chartered Bank Uganda Limited 0108212045100, 010821204510 and 0108212045102 and KCB Bank account number 2202265783.

UWONET is accused of using Stanbic bank limited accounts, 9030005606445, 9030005606496, 9030005606461, 9030005606526, 9030005606488, 903000560653, 9030005606518 and 90300123699471 to fund terrorism acts.

Human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo said they are going to use all the legal avenues to ensure that the accounts are not frozen.

“It is a constitutional right to participate in governance of the country because we are also Ugandans. We believe the move by the FIA to freeze the accounts is unlawful,” Opiyo said.

Sarah Bireete bemoaned what she described as baseless allegations against UWONET. 

“It has been advocating for the rights of women in the country and, unfortunately, it has also been linked to terrorists,” Bireete said.

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