Parliament Debates Only 10 Clauses in the NGO Bill 2015, NGO Operating Environment ‘Hangs’ in a Balance

Published By UNNGOF |  September 15, 2015

The Parliament of Uganda on Thursday 3rd September 2015 was adjourned for recess after passing only 10 clauses in the Gazzetted NGO Bill, 2015. This development comes after Members of Parliament were recalled from recess to handle important and urgent business among which was the NGO Bill, 2015. The bill which is currently at committee stage contains provisions which potentially would not only curtail NGOs’ registration and operations, but also infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed civic rights and freedoms, if passed in its current form.

Following its publication in the National Gazette on the 10th of April 2015, anxiety engulfed the sector due to a number of retrogressive provisions therein. As such, under the stewardship and of the Uganda National NGO Forum, a series of engagements were initiated with an aim of facilitating the process of passing of an enabling legislation. Some of these engagements included; consultations with NGO Directors to generate a common understanding of the Bill, Meetings with MPs on the Committee on Defense and Internal Affairs, Media engagements, and facilitating a clause by clause analysis of the Bill, et al.

Significant progress has been made from these multifaceted engagements, notably; – (1) the progressive Defense and Internal Affair committee report which, to a greater extent, incorporates the views of the NGO sector, (2) A complete paradigm shift in the understanding of the sector i.e. from being viewed as a security threat to a complimentary sector to the government. This has also inspired and informed the growth of political will amongst legislators to ensure the passing of an enabling legislation.

The most significant clauses that were passed during the special sitting include; the composition and powers of the NGO Board established for the sole purpose of monitoring the NGO activities, and the incorporation (to be handled by the registration Services Bureau) and registration of NGOs by the NGO Bureau.

With a number of contentious clauses still to be discussed, coupled with the anticipated action-filled political season, it still remains to be seen whether the Bill will be debated and passed during the tenure of the 9th Parliament or rather shelved and forwarded to the next parliament.

Story by Chris Nkwatsibwe