Not to be Outdone by Russia, Ugandan Legislators To Enact Anti-NGO Legislation

Already strained nongovernmental organizations now will likely face further scrutiny under a proposed amendment that would drastically increase the restrictions on groups operating within Uganda.

If enacted, the law would ban international NGOs from the country if their work aims to affect internal politics on any level. The bill also increases the operating costs of domestic NGOs by requiring them to file detailed reports on their annual budgets, where donations originate, and how those donations are used. All activities left unreported can lead to the rescinding of an organization’s registration, effectively outlawing their work.

The new bill is part of a continued onslaught against Ugandan civil society with an emphasis on the LGBT community, which was dealt a critical blow when the now infamous Anti-Homosexuality Law went into effect earlier this year. If passed, this legislation would prohibit domestic and foreign organizations from the so-called “promotion of homosexuality.” Additionally, HIV/AIDS relief organizations within the East African country recently learned that changes to the “Draft Guidelines for Health Workers Regarding Health Services for Homosexuals” mandates several measures that will directly impair their ability to provide services to LGBT persons.

Ugandan legislators are emulating a political/bureaucratic tool employed by other countries, most notably  Russia. In the mid-2000’s Russian legislators began proposing measures aimed at increasing scrutiny of nongovernmental organizations. New registration requirements were introduced, which were applied sparingly to those groups whose goals aligned with the Kremlin’s and strictly to those whose goals didn’t. The Duma passed legislation in 2012 requiring Russian organizations that addressed internal politics while accepting foreign funding to be branded as ‘foreign agents.’ The classification severely limits the scope and content of such organizations’ work while simultaneously cutting off their access to much needed international donors. If similar legislation succeeds Uganda it will be a tragic blow to civil society.


Published on May 6, 2014


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