News / Africa

    Ugandan Parliament Passes Controversial NGO Bill

    FILE - Ugandan lawmakers are seen in session inside the Parliament building in the capital, Kampala, Aug. 10, 2015.
    FILE - Ugandan lawmakers are seen in session inside the Parliament building in the capital, Kampala, Aug. 10, 2015.

    Uganda's parliament has passed a bill that rights groups say could severely limit the activities of non-governmental organizations inside the country. The bill is now awaiting the president's signature.

    Lawmakers passed the Non-Governmental Organizations Act despite fierce opposition from several civil society groups.

    The final version, made public this week, shows that one of the most contentious sections of the bill remains unchanged. The section prohibits “any act, which is prejudicial to the interests of Uganda and the dignity of the people of Uganda.”

    Adrian Jjuuko, executive director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), said the bill spells trouble for organizations like his that deal with controversial issues like LGBT rights, abortion advocacy and land grabbing.

    “A meeting organized by a LGBT organization, for LGBT people for skills training, is illegal because it's against public interest. This is the law that's been introduced, and you say it's okay? ...Organizations aren't supposed to just work on nice issues. They are supposed to work on all issues that are controversial because of what we believe in, because of our values,” Jjuuko said.

    Human Rights Watch says the restrictions laid out in the bill are too “vague.”
     
    There is also concern that this bill could stifle dissent ahead of general elections in February.  For example, NGOs deemed to be engaging in partisan politics could face heavy fines and its members up to three years in jail.

    FILE - People holding rainbow flags take part in a Gay Pride parade in Entebbe, Uganda, Aug. 8, 2015. Critics of the new NGO bill say organizations such as those promoting LGBT rights will likely be among those stifled.
    FILE - People holding rainbow flags take part in a Gay Pride parade in Entebbe, Uganda, Aug. 8, 2015. Critics of the new NGO bill say organizations such as those promoting LGBT rights will likely be among those stifled.

    Blurred lines

    Yet determining what is partisan isn't always so black and white. In November, under separate guidelines, the electoral commission suspended a voter mobilization campaign created by the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU).

    The campaign showed pictures of dirt roads and potholes and told people to vote. Election authorities said it was advocating for change, and thus partisan. CCEDU has since amended their ads.
     
    The new legislation creates an inspection board and sets rules on how NGOs are run and staffed. Proponents of the bill say it will catch fraudulent NGOs.
     
    Festus Kahiigwa with the National NGO Board said because many NGOs work hand in hand with the government, conflict is unlikely.

    “There must be guidelines. There must be laws in everything, otherwise there will be anarchy. So we need laws to be there, policies to be there, rules to be there and these help even everybody actually,” Kahiigwa said.

    A government spokesperson has tried to assuage fears, pointing out that no NGO has been unjustly dissolved without evidence it had cheated the public.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora