Breaking

Court Dismisses Application Challenging Suspension of Elections Observers' Coalition

It is the National Bureau for Non-government Organisations- NGO Bureau that suspended operations of NEW -U on 29th October 2020 saying that it wasn't registered as an NGO yet engaging in activities of NGOs and majority of its over 50 members were registered NGOs.
31 Jul 2021 10:06


The Civil Division of High Court in Kampala has dismissed an application by Center for Constitutional Governance challenging the suspension of National Election Watch Uganda NEW-U, a coalition of elections observers launched in September 2020.

It is the National Bureau for Non-government Organisations- NGO Bureau that suspended operations of NEW -U on 29th October 2020 saying that it wasn't registered as an NGO yet engaging in activities of NGOs and majority of its over 50 members were registered NGOs.

The suspension prompted the Center for Constitutional Governance, a registered NGO led by its Executive Director Sarah Bireete to take the NGO Bureau to court challenging the suspension of activities of NEW-U. Center for Constitutional Governance argued that the Bureau had no powers to suspend operations of a coalition like NEW-U because it wasn't an NGO yet the bureau's mandate lies with NGOs. CCG also argued that the bureau didn't give the coalition a right to fair hearing since they didn't engage them before the suspension.

The NGO sought orders to declare the actions of the Bureau altra vires saying that it ignored principles of justice by not engaging NEW -U before suspending its activities. CCG also sought an injunction order stopping the NGO Bureau and or its agents from taking action against individual members of NEW-U.

The NGO Bureau defended it's actions in an affidavit sworn by Celia Nagawa, the Principal Legal Officer and Secretary of the NGO Bureau in the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The affidavit noted that the applicant was a registered NGO with specific objectives as registered by the NGO Bureau and the applicant had never made any application to the Bureau to review its Permit to operate and or mandate its activities to include formation of loose unregistered coalitions and Consortiums and hence couldn't be permitted to operate in activities that cannot be regulated under its formation.

In the affidavit, NGO Bureau further argued that for any Association or body to operate in Uganda, it is required to be incorporated in Uganda with Uganda Registration Services Bureau which was not the case with NEW-U as an Association or Coalition to govern members of this Consortium. The Bureau further argues that since the coalition was working with NGOs and yet its activities cannot be regulated under any law in Ugandan, it couldn't be legally maintained.

In his judgement, Justice Musa Ssekaana found that the NGO bureau acted within its mandate to suspend operations of NEW -U. He said that the broad mandate given to the NGO Bureau to regulate all organisations registered under it or operate upon a permit invites it to look into the affairs of the organisations in order to exercise its statutory role as a regulator.

He further said that evidence before court showed that NEW-U was operating under the Center for Constitutional Governance, a registered NGO and that all its activities and intentions were crafted as an NGO which must have been issued with a permit to operate. The justice hence concluded that NGO Bureau was right-legally to halt the operations of National NEW-U in the circumstances of this case.

Regarding the argument that NGO Bureau ignored principles of justice when suspending operations of NEW-U, the Justice said that there was evidence before court that NGO Bureau engaged with the Center for Constitutional Governance and that the meeting could suffice after all NEW-U was operating under the Center for Constitutional Governance.

Justice Ssekaana ruled that the application fails and hence dismissed it without any orders of cost. 

#####