Today, Mr. Nicholas Opiyo, the Executive Director of Chapter Four Uganda, an award winning human rights lawyer, the 2017 German Africa Prize Recipient, appeared before the Anti Corruption Court in Kampala.
He is accused of money laundering in his individual capacity, but yet for an external grant of US$ 340,000 (over 1.2 billion shillings), which was received on a Chapter Four Uganda bank account on 8th October 2020, for charitable work in Uganda; but the State alleges it was obtained from proceeds of crime.
Seemingly, the State has successfully dangled us a red herring – brazenly arresting Mr. Opiyo, commando style and then proffering against him questionable charges. Now, when you Google Mr. Opiyo you get tens of links with screaming headlines of how he was arrested for money laundering.
Many people don’t read beyond the headlines and it is quite easy for an accusation to be perceived as true, however dodgy it may be. You begin to hear people saying things like “there is no smoke without fire.” Thus, Mr. Opiyo’s good name has already been tarnished by the State giving life to an alternative narrative about him Machiavellian style.
While our attention is diverted to defending Mr. Opiyo’s good name and the good work of Chapter Four Uganda, discourse is curtailed on urgent and important issues, such as Uganda’s draconian Non Governmental Organisations Act. An act that provides a legal basis for executives of NGOs to be persecuted, such as is seemingly being done to Mr. Opiyo.
Ironically, the very people, members of parliament (MPs), who supported and allowed draconian laws that are being used to terrorise citizens, are now on the campaign trail asking us to vote them back into office. Sadly, many Ugandans don’t make the connection and they will likely vote back into office those MPs.
Whereas, every single MP who supported the current Uganda NGO Act, which is in force, takes credit for what the State is doing to Mr. Opiyo. MPs are responsible for creating an environment of shrinking civic space and for violation of human rights in Uganda.
MPs are responsible, as well, for failing the charitable work of NGOs, as a whole, and in particular currently, the work of the Uganda NGO Forum and of the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET); as well as ensuring the elections this week will be held less monitored by professionals who represent a significant section of Ugandans.
Dr. Stella Nyanzi an academic turned politician knows too well about violation of human rights under the smokescreen of ” we are implementing of the law.” She is contesting for the position of Woman Member of Parliament for Kampala.
Vote out those MPs who enact bad laws and and vote in new voices, such as Dr. Stella Nyanzi, who are pledging to truly be the voice of the voiceless in Parliament.