At an IPOD meeting, Museveni was there alongside other political figures. Will it signal the start of DGF III or the end of the project?
The Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), a significant sponsor of civil society organizations in Uganda, has been given a brief, five-month window to function by President Yoweri Museveni. But does that spell the demise of DGF, whose operations were put on hold last year, or is it just another tactic the President is using to pressure the NGOs into submission?
On June 22, Museveni declared the very limited resumption of DGF operations in Uganda.
.”I had the Danish Minister of Development Cooperation over today. Numerous bilateral topics were discussed. In a tweet, Museveni stated, “I also consented to lifting the restriction on Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), to run until December 2022, with Government representation in the decision-making bodies.
He continued, “I will formally transmit our viewpoint to the pertinent government departments.
Following a protracted lobbying campaign, many discussions between the government and development partners, and public campaigns, the prohibition has been lifted.
In any case, the project has just six months left, the president was told during the meeting by the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation, Flemming Miller Mortensen. Nicolaj Abraham Petersen, the Danish Ambassador to Uganda, was present during the meeting.
visiting Danish Minister
The European Union, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Norway formed the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) in 2011 to offer financial and technical support to both state and non-state actors in areas including democracy, human rights, and rule of law.
DGF II’s budget for its second phase, which began in 2017, was 102 million Euros, which irritated Museveni. 12 million euros from the European Development Fund (EDF), 2.5 million euros from Austria, 20 million euros from Denmark, 14 million euros from Ireland, 10 million euros from the Netherlands, 10 million euros from Norway, and 25 million euros from Sweden made up the funding. Additionally, 8 million euros from DGF I were carried over.
The funders acknowledged that Phase had achieved significant results in advancing and supporting democratic governance, including positive civil society engagement with governmental institutions, citizens’ awareness of their rights, stronger accountability through demand-side initiatives, and the provision of legal aid. They approved funding for Phase two of the DGF.
They stated, “DGF II, building on these achievements, would not only be consolidating its efforts in supporting and strengthening civil society. Experience has demonstrated that promoting public participation with democratic processes and institutions has led to enhanced state responsiveness. In order to show the usefulness of a governance program that links to the government’s national priorities and pledges, it will also take advantage of chances for expanded interaction with the government of Uganda. Beyond merely being a “continuation” of DGF I, DGF II seeks to advance.
There was a consensus at the time that areas of intervention that were successful in producing results based on evidence from 2011 to 2016 needed to be combined or scaled up, and new areas of intervention needed to be explored.
According to the funders, the DGF II programming would be based on a set of guiding principles that included identifying and contributing to the resolution of local and national problems, ensuring regular learning, emphasizing gender issues, and involving a wide range of actors in relation to important governance issues.
Bobi Wine’s influence
President Museveni, however, ordered the suspension of DGF operations on January 2, 2021, claiming that the organization’s finances were “used to pay actions and organizations meant to overthrow (the) Government under the pretense of enhancing governance.”
The fact that DGF was given permission to deploy its £100 million (about Shs500.8 billion) operating budget in the nation without consulting him infuriated President Museveni.
He wrote to the Ministry of Finance on January 2, 2021, saying, “It has come to my attention that the Ministry of Finance under the hand of the Permanent Secretary, irregularly and unilaterally authorized a £100 million fund, known as the Democratic Governance Facility, to be operated exclusively by a foreign mission in Uganda.”
He compared it to the Democratic Governance and accountability project, where he said there was transparency and representation, and said the Government of Uganda has no control over how the Democratic Governance Facility is run in Uganda.
Museveni claimed to have learned that a significant portion of the DGF funds were used to support groups and activities aimed at overthrowing the government “in the name of enhancing governance.”
The National Unity Platform (NUP), led by Robert Sentamu Kyagulanyi, better known by his stage name Bobi Wine, is a new party that President Museveni shut down at the height of the race for the 2021 presidential, legislative, and local government elections.
The People Power movement, which had spearheaded resistance to increasing the presidential term limits so that Museveni could run again, was succeeded by Bobi Wine and his NUP party, which at the time was the darling of the Western media. Museveni claims that the support for NUP from the west was reciprocated.
Over 100 Non-Governmental Organizations were reportedly affected by Museveni’s ban. Many of these people’s endeavors came to an end. However, the restriction was opposed, among others, by Freedom House, a group dedicated to promoting democracy and receiving funding from the American government.
DGF is essential to the operations of many Ugandan civic organizations charged with advancing the rule of law and good governance as well as some governmental bodies, including the Uganda Human Rights Commission, according to Jon Temin, director of Africa programs at Freedom House, who stated this in a press release on February 4.
He declared, “Through this action, the government of Uganda is impeding progress spearheaded by Ugandans themselves. We are worried by the decision to suspend the Democratic Governance Facility.”
He cited the arrest of Bobi Wine at a campaign rally for allegedly violating COVID-19 restrictions as an example of how the violent and violently repressive nature of the elections led to the deaths of over 50 people as security forces tried to put an end to protests that were sparked by Wine’s arrest. He mentioned how the government interfered with internet service nationally, leading the opposition to charge that the government was preventing it from sharing proof of electoral fraud.
In addition, he claimed, the government barred foreign observers from keeping tabs on the election, rejected almost all requests for accreditation from Ugandan civil society organizations seeking to participate, and frozen the bank accounts of numerous well-known groups engaged in election monitoring and good governance.
The topic was discussed on the floor of Parliament around at the same time as Jon Temin’s news release.
On February 4, 2021, Latif Sebaggala, a member of parliament for Kawempe North, submitted it as an issue of national importance. Museveni’s action, according to him, would “give a serious blow to DGF’s efforts to combat corruption and empower people across the country.”
Instead of concentrating on claims that the Fund is undermining the government, Sebaggala asserted that the President should have done his homework about the DGF’s support for communities and people’s livelihoods.
“The DGF funds a lot of non-governmental organizations, and these NGOs have employed numerous Ugandans to carry out their tasks,” he continued.
In response to allegations that the Fund has been supporting activities in the region, Sebaggala added that the President shouldn’t hold the DGF responsible for NRM’s defeat in the central region.
According to Asuman Basalirwa, a member of parliament representing Bugiri Municipality, political parties, including the NRM, have benefited from money from DGF through the Inter-Party Organization for Dialogue (IPOD).
Basalirwa claimed that the President’s action “stifles his own party.”
Silas Aogon, a member of parliament for Kumi Municipality, claimed that the presidential order to stop DGF operations had an impact on even official institutions like the Parliament. He claimed that the DGF directly sponsored the Government Assurances Committee’s activities.
The functions of the Committee are now in peril, he declared.
The Prime Minister was instructed to make a statement to Parliament at the time by Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of the House.
It is yet unknown whether President Museveni’s easing of the prohibition, even if it is only for a brief five months, would usher in DGF III or mean the end of a project that has served as the beating heart of democracy in Uganda.