Ugandan Finance Minister Matia Kasaija has written to President Yoweri Museveni protesting the closure of a donor fund last week.
Museveni, who was re-elected last month in a disputed vote, in a letter to his finance minister charges that money withdrawn from the Democratic Governance Facility has been “used to finance activities and organizations designed to subvert Government under the guise of improving governance.”
However, minister Kasaija was quoted by a Ugandan news agency as saying the president acted on wrong information.
The Democratic Governance Facility, or DGF, was launched in 2011 by Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Austria, Norway, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the European Union as a five-year program to support government and non-governmental groups working to promote human rights, deepen democracy and improve accountability. Renewed in 2018 and domiciled within the Danish embassy, the fund says it wants to see a country “where citizens are empowered to engage in democratic governance and the state upholds citizens’ rights.”
The fund, which has operated in Uganda with the full knowledge of relevant authorities, has supported groups ranging from rights watchdogs to anti-corruption agencies, and even journalists doing investigative work have received funding. Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda has praised work accomplished through the fund.
Museveni accused the Ministry of Finance irregularly and unilaterally authorized DGF funding to a tune 500 billion Shillings, to be operated exclusively by foreign missions in Uganda. He added that the approval of DGF operations without government oversight tantamount to surrendering the sovereignty of the people of Uganda to foreign interests.
“The foreign mission and its funders have been given free rein by the Ministry of Finance to choose which activity, entities and amounts to finance without the knowledge or consent of the government,” Museveni said in a letter dated January 2, 2021, addressed to Finance Minister Matia Kasaija.
“Was this a result of subversion, corruption or criminal negligence, or all of these? Why wasn’t the Cabinet and I consulted? This is unacceptable,” Museveni said and directed the Minister to immediately suspend the DGF until Cabinet has fully reviewed the matter.
But Kasaija told Uganda Radio Network that he has written a detailed report to the President explaining the processes that the Finance Ministry went through to approve DGF funding and how the basket fund operates in Uganda. He adds that he will now wait for the President’s response to the matter.
Ugandan lawmakers have questioned Museveni’s directive and warned that DGF’s finances to different Non-Government Organizations and Ministries, Departments and Agencies shouldn’t be related to politics.
They added that the fund has greatly helped the country to further good governance, fight corruption, solve the unemployment problem and several other issues of benefit to society.
DGF is funding more than 70 organizations in Uganda which collectively employ more than 10,000 people.