Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, the Minister of Internal Affairs in Uganda, emphasized the need for a closer and more cooperative relationship between the government and civil society organizations (CSOs). The convention, held in Kampala and organized by the German cooperation agency GIZ and the European Union in collaboration with Nation Media Group Uganda, aimed to provide a platform for CSOs to showcase their contributions to Uganda’s development and facilitate dialogue among all stakeholders.
The strained relations between the Ugandan government and CSOs, which had escalated over the past three years, were a focal point of Gen Otafiire’s address. He highlighted that both entities share the same overarching goal, which is to serve the Ugandan people. Gen Otafiire stressed that the relationship between the government and CSOs should be characterized by complementarity rather than confrontation. He underlined the importance of understanding their respective roles and boundaries in achieving this shared agenda.
“We must come together and work towards improving service delivery for our people. The reason why developed countries have progressed at high speed is because they prioritize development instead of politics,” Gen Otafiire stated, expressing his appreciation for the role of CSOs in this endeavor.
Jan Sadek, the head of the European Union to Uganda, also acknowledged the thriving presence of CSOs in Uganda, despite facing various challenges. He emphasized the significance of open and constructive dialogue between CSOs and the government, considering their complementary roles in the nation’s development.
Sadek encouraged increased communication and collaboration between CSOs, donors, development partners, and the government to prevent friction, similar to what occurred around the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), a multi-billion European development coalition project suspended by President Museveni in the lead-up to the 2021 elections.
Dr. Fred Muhumuza, an economist from Makerere University, provided insight into the role of CSOs. He explained that CSOs have a dual responsibility of holding both state and non-state actors accountable and ensuring that essential services reach those in need. Muhumuza called for collaboration to influence government policy positively while understanding the challenges governments face.
Moses Isooba, the executive director of Uganda NGO Forum, echoed the commitment to collaborating with the government to enhance service delivery across the country.
The strained relations between the government and the NGO community had emerged when the government accused certain CSOs of financially supporting its political opponents. The situation culminated with President Museveni’s decision to suspend the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), a significant European development coalition project, before the 2021 elections. In the current landscape, Gen Otafiire’s call for collaboration between the government and CSOs marks a pivotal step towards mending fences and advancing Uganda’s development goals.