Court to Decide Fate of Chapter Four in March

On Tuesday, Civil Division Judge Musa Ssekaana has fixed the date after the parties in the matter appeared before the court and told him that they had complied with his previous orders requiring them to make written submissions before they can be given a judgment date.
12 Jan 2022 07:53
The Lawyers Representing Chapter Four Uganda Francis Gimara and David Mpanga at the High Court.

Audio 2

The High Court in Kampala has fixed March 18 as the date to deliver its decision on an application seeking to quash the government directive to indefinitely suspend the activities of Chapter Four Uganda.

On Tuesday, Civil Division Judge Musa Ssekaana has fixed the date after the parties in the matter appeared before the court and told him that they had complied with his previous orders requiring them to make written submissions before they can be given a judgment date. 

Chapter Four Uganda’s lawyer Apollo Katumba noted that the court had given them timelines to file submissions and he believed that they are on the court record. 

He prayed for a judgment date and the National Bureau for Non-Government Organization NGO Bureau which is the respondent in this matter was represented by State Attorney Charity Nabasa from the Attorney General’s chambers also concurred with Katumba’s submissions.  Another Lawyer for Chapter Four Uganda Lastone Lulume says that they are happy that the fate of the organization will be determined.

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The case arises from a decision by the NGO Bureau on August 18 ordering Chapter Four Uganda to cease operations with immediate effect to enable the Bureau to conduct a comprehensive investigation into their operations.

According to Stephen Okello the Executive Director of NGO Bureau, Chapter Four Uganda was closed together with 53 other Non-Governmental Organizations for alleged failure to comply with the legislation covering their operations. 

However, to ensure that the decision is implemented, the NGO Bureau further copied the letter to Chapter Four Uganda's banker's Absa Bank, the Financial Intelligence Authority- FIA, and the Uganda Registration Services Bureau directing them to forthwith halt all the transactions with Chapter Four Uganda.

The organization through its lawyers of AF Mpanga then filed an application before the High Court Civil Division seeking to quash the decision.

Chapter Four Uganda argued that the Uganda Police Force has since implemented the NGO Bureau's decision as a revocation of its permit and subsequently their bank accounts have equally been frozen.

According to Chapter Four Uganda, their suspension has seriously hindered their activities and ability to meet its financial obligations to third parties and its performance obligations under donor contracts to which they are a party.

"The continued indefinite freezing of the applicant's bank accounts in compliance with the Respondent's/NGO Bureau impugned decision had not only exposed the applicant to the risk of closure for to lack of funds to meet basic operational costs but exposes the applicant to the risk of being sued by third parties for failure to meet its financial obligations and having its donor agreements terminate and it's donor funding permanently recalled for failure to implement its projects within agreed timelines", reads the application in part.  

Court records further show that since the communication of the contentious decision, Chapter Four Uganda has severally attempted to file their annual returns for the year 2020 and their permit which expired on November 25 2021 but the NGO Bureau has refused to receive their documents seeking renewal of the permit.

Chapter Four Uganda wants the court to quash the decision by the NGO Bureau, issue a permanent injunction prohibiting the government and its agents from relying on or implementing the aforementioned decision.

They also want the court to order the NGO Bureau to receive their application for renewal of a permit to operate as an NGO and to consider the application for renewal of permit in accordance with the provisions of the law.

Prior to its suspension, Chapter Four Uganda was involved in activities such as strategic and Public Interest Litigation, providing legal support to civil society organizations and human rights defenders, documenting and monitoring human rights abuses, conducting capacity building and training among others.

Chapter Four Uganda’s activities were suspended a few days prior to the withdraw of criminal charges of money laundering against its Executive Director Nicholas Opiyo whose organization had been accused of allegations of funding terror.

In November 2021, the Information, Communication, and Technology Minister Chris Baryomunsi told journalists in Kampala that the Internal Affairs Ministry had concluded a validation and verification exercise of all NGOs operating in the country.

According to Baryomunsi, the exercise revealed that a total of 3,810 NGOs have valid permits and out of those, 2,118 had valid permits.

He added that of those that had permits, 1,635 are indigenous, 254 are foreign, 205 are international, seven are regional and 17 are continental.