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Great Lakes Institute under investigation over 'unlawful activities'

Godber Tumushabe, associate director GLISS

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has kicked off investigations into the activities of a Kampala-based a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) linked to what the state terms as involvement in alleged unlawful activities.

Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS), a political think-tank, is under probe after the Minister for Internal Affairs, Gen Aronda Nyakairima demanded an investigation into the activities of the organization over its alleged role in recruitment of youths to join political opposition.

In July, the Registrar General of Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) wrote to the organisation's associate director, Godber Tumushabe, notifying him and his partner Sophie Kutegeka that a team of inspectors had been appointed to investigate their activities.

On Thursday last week, a group of officers attached to URSB and some police officers stormed Tumushabe's offices. During the exercise, the officers and investigators asked for financial statements, as well as expenditure reports.

“They told me that they are investigating whether the company is compliant with the Companies Act. But I am aware this probe is because of the political and civic work that I have been doing. This has no relation whatsoever to my personal work,” Tumushabe said on phone.

Tumushabe says the financial reports were not ready by the time the officers visited the premises, however he will cooperate with them and send the required documents to clear his name.

When contacted, deputy Police spokesperson, Polly Namaye says she was not privy to the operation but stated that the police officers could have been asked to escort the URSB officials for security purposes.

“The Ministry could be conducting its own investigations and police officers were asked to escort the officials, which is a common practice,” Namaye explained.

Efforts to contact officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs were futile. Nicholas Opiyo, the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, says the actions of the state points to a bigger threat to civic space as the 2016 elections draw near.

“It is a waste of time for the state to continually clamp down on people who are critical to its activities,” Opiyo notes.

This comes weeks after Parliament adopted a House report on the Non-Governmental Organizations Bill 2015. The bill seeks to strengthen the capacity of the current NGO Board to regulate, register, coordinate and monitor activities of the NGOs.

Under the Bill if enacted, NGOs found operating illegally without a permit will be liable, on conviction to a fine not exceeding Shs 4m.

Where an NGO contravenes any section of the Act, the director responsible will be held liable to a fine of Shs 2m or a four-year jail term. The Board may revoke the permit of an NGO and dissolve it if it contravenes the law.

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