U.S. Embassy Kampala January 9, 2021 Kampala, Uganda
Statement by U.S. Ambassador Natalie E. Brown on U.S. Concern Over Denying Ugandan CSOs Access to Their Bank Accounts
The U.S. government remains concerned over disturbing signs that civic space is closing. With the election only days away, restrictions on civil society organizations (CSOs), delayed accreditation of domestic observers by the Electoral Commission, and interference with non-partisan voter education programming funded by Uganda’s international democratic partners have raised serious concerns about Uganda’s preparedness for a transparent, inclusive election.
Today we remain particularly concerned over how Ugandan institutions continue to block the bank accounts of several reputable and well-known CSOs, on questionable bases, preventing their important work on voter education, domestic election observation, public dialogues, and tracking and preventing election-related violence. These are globally accepted non-partisan elections activities funded by the U.S., the European Union, and other international partners who are merely supporting the Ugandan people in living up to their own constitutionally mandated election standards.
The continued blocking of these accounts has significantly limited the ability of these CSOs to contribute to the conduct of free, fair, and peaceful elections in Uganda, a goal that the United States shares with the Ugandan people. Civil society plays a key role in the electoral process, and every effort should be made to facilitate its work.
For nearly 60 years, the United States has worked directly with Uganda and its people to support development, promote regional peace, improve the health of citizens, and strengthen the democratic principles and institutions needed to sustain social and economic growth. Moreover, the United States also works indirectly with Uganda in a very significant way as the largest contributor to the World Bank; the United Nations; the International Monetary Fund; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and other multilateral organizations.
As longstanding friends and partners, we are troubled by the signs of closing political space, including the blocking of bank accounts of Ugandan civil society organizations working for the benefit of the Ugandan people.
As the United States’ history and current events makes clear, democracy cannot be taken for granted. It must be nurtured, developed, and defended. The civil society organizations whose bank accounts have been frozen do just that. So, in the spirit of friendship and partnership that have marked relations between the United States and Uganda for decades, I urge the responsible authorities to ensure that expeditious due process is completed so that these organizations, which are helping the Ugandan people move closer to enjoying truly free, fair, and transparent elections, can carry out their work.
We stand with all Ugandans who seek to deepen democracy and advance prosperity for all.