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CSOs Condemn Arrest of Soroti Activist Benson Ekwee

The charges against him remain unclear, although, activists in the area say that the arrest is linked to a survey on the ongoing age limit report, whose report he authored three-weeks ago.
Civil society organizations in Uganda have condemned the arrest of Benson Ekwee, the Executive Director of Public Affairs Centre, a Soroti based non-government Organisation.

Ekwee was arrested on Monday by the police at East Kyoga regional police headquarters and is still detained at Soroti Central Police Station.

The charges against him remain unclear, although, activists in the area say that the arrest is linked to a survey on the ongoing age limit report, whose report he authored three-weeks ago.

Richard Ssewakiryanga, the executive director of Uganda National NGO Forum, says that Ekwee is being persecuted for his work most of which is related to governance initiatives that promote stronger citizen-leader engagements including the Citizen Manifesto and related campaigns. 

He calls for the unconditional release of all activists held under police custody.

"Once again, I would like all of us to denounce these acts of illegally arresting civil society leaders and activists.  Constitutional advocacy is not a crime.  In situations where the Police have reason to suspect the work of an NGO, we demand that the provisions of the NGO Act 2016 and NGO Act Regulations 2017 are used, “Ssewakiryanga said.

Ssewakiryanga urged the NGO Board to take specific interest in the arrest of civil society leaders and ensure that there is coordination between the Police and the Board on all matters relating to the operations of NGOs.

"Please do stand in solidarity with Benson and his family in these difficult times.  We should also be resolute in our defense of the rule of law and respect for the rights of all Ugandans, including those who may hold alternative views on any governance issue in Uganda," Ssewakiryanga said.

On Tuesday Julius Aruku,  the program coordinator for Public Affairs Centre told URN that Ekwee's arrest  stemmed from the consultation on the proposal to lift the cap on the presidential age and the engagement of community members through civic education and surveys.

He says their community engagements attracted a series of negative criticism from local politicians within the region.

On Tuesday East Kyoga regional police spokesperson, Michael Odongo told journalists that Ekwee's arrest was sanctioned from Kampala but declined to divulge details on the matter.

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