Fr. Simon Lokodo, the boisterous catholic priest who serves as the Minister for Ethics and Integrity yesterday told me, Charles Mwanguhya and Bernard Tabaire that he had finalised arrangements to de-register some 38 NGO's in Uganda. " They will be de-registered for supporting homosexuality under the guise of fighting for human rights" he said. The Minister was a guest of the Hot Seat on 933 KFM in what was a rather disturbing show yesterday. He had come to explain why his ministry was focussing on breaking up "gay promotion" meetings. Amongst other things he when I asked him why he was not as outspoken about the perils of child trafficking, child sex abuse or even the plight of men in Uganda's prison system where non-consensual sex and congestion is pushing up HIV numbers he retorted that he embraced prostitution because it was a lesser evil. I also asked him what he thought of the idea of a military police mooted by the head of the Uganda Police Force since it would mean the force would be soldiers in uniform? His response off air was that the government was being provoked.
There is something of moral flux in Uganda these days. Political leaders have drawn the battle lines over the "involvement" of the Church in politics even as religious leaders seek to impose not just political solutions ( they want a restoration of constitutional term limits etc) but recently suggested lawmakers revisit Uganda's controversial "anti-gay" legislation. This even as news reports are filled daily with what are likely systemic cases of violence, criminal behavior that those with an eye for these things including Fr. Lokodo may to review as a national conversation about common values.
Still the Minister had a unique angle on that too. He said mushrooming evangelical churches would also be "de-registered". Unlike traditional churches he said they only entertained. False prophesy maybe.
Ugandan NGO's are facing a tough stretch. The Internal Affairs Minister who Lokodo said had worked with him on the list of NGO's whose operating license would be withdrawn has been battling with UK's Oxfam and the Uganda Land Alliance following the publication by the two of a report on alleged land grabbing. The full list of 38 NGO's likely includes two organisations I know well, the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment and the Uganda Human Rights Network [HURINET]. Lokodo confirmed HURINET was on the list. "Oxfam will survive for now" he said but added that Uganda Land Alliance was on its way out.
News reports will likely carry these stories in the next couple of days but it appears that the ante is up on NGO's. I did several interviews over the last weeks about the situation. What appears clear is that the community of NGO's has no common response. Perhaps until the rhetoric turns into action and licenses are torn up like yesterday's newspapers.