Uganda: Kasaija to meet Museveni, envoys to decide DGF fate

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Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija. President Museveni will meet Mr Kasaija to discuss the planned suspension of the Democratic Governance Facility. PHOTO | FILE

By Arthur Arnold Wadero

President Museveni will meet Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija to thrash out the thorny issues surrounding the former’s directive to “immediately suspend”  operations of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF).

The planned meeting, according to highly-placed sources, follows a letter that Mr Kasaija wrote this week in which he informed the President that the information he based on to direct a freeze of DGF was likely inaccurate.

According to the sources, who spoke to this newspaper on Tuesday, Mr Kasaija is expected to expound on the facts regarding the operations of DGF on whose board, it turns out, officials from the Finance ministry have over the years represented the government of Uganda.

In a January 2, 2021 letter, Mr Museveni ordered Mr Kasaija to suspend operations of the nearly Shs500b DGF, alleging that it was functioning outside government oversight, which undermined the sovereignty of Uganda.

Minister Kasaija yesterday disclosed that the government and the development partners are in talks to try to amicably resolve the differences and apprehension that have emerged following the leak of President Museveni’s letter.  

“We (government) will come out fully next week after we have finished consultations, including meeting the ambassadors so that we tell you exactly what is happening and what happened in the past,” Mr Kasaija said.
He declined further comments, suggesting that all inquiries regarding DGF be deferred until the government harmonises its position with the various actors.

Mr Kasaija criticised the media for publishing details of President Museveni’s leaked letter, saying the unauthorised disclosure risked harming the countries diplomatic, bilateral and multilateral relationships with development partners. 

“Somebody leaked that letter and yet it was so confidential. If you saw that it (was) confidential, then you should have rung and say, ‘should we publicise this or not’ because it can cause a diplomatic row,” he said.

The president’s directive caused anxiety countrywide because DGF is a principal financer of the civil society and co-funds other government agencies including the National NGO Bureau, Parliament, the Law Council and Uganda Law Society.

It also provides substantial funding to media development organisations such as the Africa Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), which trains journalists and promotes media literacy, and media freedom defender, Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-U).

DGF has also signed a Shs3b deal with the largely state-owned Vision Group, publisher of the New Vision newspaper, to fund reporting on human rights.

Mr Kasaija’s revelations yesterday about government’s engagement with donors, which follows his letter to the President on why the suspension of DGF would be problematic, suggests the fund’s operations may likely not be suspended as feared.

Affected civil society organisations separately voiced their concerns loudly, prompting the sector regulator, the National NGO Bureau, to quieten them if they wanted to avoid sanctions.

“The Bureau calls upon affected non -governmental organisations (NGO) in particular and the sector at large to remain calm so as to give room for the relevant arms of government to investigate the matter and for the Cabinet to deliberate on it,” Mr Stephen Okello, the bureau executive director, said in a statement.

About DGF

Democratic Governance Facility was launched in 2011 to bankroll non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and select government agencies to bolster democracy, human rights and accountability in the country.
Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Austria, Norway, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the European Union – which are key donors to Uganda government – finance the programme.

Culled from Daily Monitor.

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