CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS IN COURT OVER NEW-U
Civil Society Organisations in Court Over New-U
The High Court Judge will this week issue a verdict over the petition filed by the Centre for Constitutional Justice (CCG) and others, challenging the legality of a declaration by the National NGO Bureau that banned a loose coalition of domestic election observers known as National Election watch Uganda (NEW-U)
This ultra-vires decision forced the organization and its individuals to sue the Attorney General and NGO bureau for their acts. The applicants seek writs that stop the bureau from meddling into activities that are out of their scope.
The matter before court is whether or not NEW-U not being just a brand, a loose association and just an idea, is not out of the mandate of the National NGO Bureau and cannot be control or place it under the bureau’s armpit.
Over 60 civil society organizations joined forces in and organized themselves into an umbrella association they named the National Election Watch – Uganda (New-U). The underlying objective of the NEW-U (new you) was to provide a coordination platform for domestic election observation.
The National NGO Bureau declared NEW-U banned through a press release and promised to punish the registered organizations that associated under it. The secret known is that the body that is used to curtail and stifle this group from associating is the same one that is legally mandated to supervise NGO’s.
This clearly exposes the maneuvers of government to control and stifle all the voices that are speaking in unison on the desire to have a free and fair election. Participation in an election need not be controlled by the state but should be left to the people of Uganda and at the bare minimum do under or seen to be done using the laws available.
There is glaring force used by the state and its agencies to circumvent the processes and deny the country a credible, free and fair election. It is efforts that NEW-U that can hold the Electoral Commission accountable and put in the correct line. Arbitrary decisions that are even beyond the powers of NGO bureau should be condemned and vehemently discouraged.
There is need to emphasize, Uganda has chosen to take a democratic path but somehow processes are circumvented to the detriment of a democratic path. Most pressure groups or quasi-political arrangements have bared fruits for this country. An instance in 2005 the popular resistance against life presidency by Muwanga Kivumbi and group developed and shaped the discussion against the removal of term limits.
Freedom of association is a fundamental right that is inherent and should not be dictated by the state or other authority. This is buttressed by Article 20 of the Universal declaration of Human Rights and other several international instruments. The laws of Uganda critically indicate that Uganda has had a checkered history full of gross human rights violations.
It’s from this background that our constitution under chapter four expressly provide upholding, promoting and protecting human rights and freedoms. Ugandans enjoy the freedom to associate in either a group or as individuals and this right is not squeezed by other enabling laws.