“On 5th of last month, the attackers hit us at HURINET. They took away over 20 computers, a server, a safe and other information related gadgets.”Ndifuna added: “And we are not alone. Over the past couple of months, several NGOs have experienced break-ins and the primary target are information storage equipment. It is part of the wave of criminality targeting NGOs with the intent to crackdown on the Civil Society,”
Other NGOs that have suffered a similar fate, include Human Rights Networks – Uganda, Advocates Coalition for Environment and Development (ACORD), Action Aid, Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, Uganda Land Alliance, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, among others.
Ndifuna accused government security operatives from for carrying out the attacks.
Ndifuna said, a group of NGO leaders recently met with the Inspector General of Government Gen. Kale Kayihura and expressed their suspicions as to the likely perpetrators of the break-ins.
“We highly suspect that these attacks are sponsored by the state perhaps to obtain information, and we have told the Police chief,” Ndifuna urged the government however to use legal means to obtain information, other other resorting to crude illegal practices. Ndifuna however noted that during their meeting with the police, Kayihura denied knowledge of the attacks but promised to investigate.
“We also expressed our concern to the IGP over the failure by the police to have any of the break-ins so far successfully investigated,” said Ndifuna.
Ndifuna argued that the break-ins are part of a bigger campaign by the government to monopolize the public space, by suppressing or intimidating those organisation that can challenge the government in the public domain.
“You can see that the struggle to make this pluralistic political dispensation is under threat. When your work is set out to challenge regime entrenchment, you’re likely to face trouble.”
But Ndifuna urged the his colleagues in the civil society not to give in to intimidation but instead come together to challenge the forces of oppression and work harder to expose the perpetrators of human rights abuses and if they get evidence, go to court.
Harunah Kanaabi, the Executive Secretary of the Independent Media Council of Uganda argued that the attacks on the civil society must be seen in the broader context of the diminishing space for freedom of expression in the country. “This is because of NGOs are part of the society that is trying to bring government to account.”
The Spokesperson of Uganda Police Force Fred Enanga acknowledged receipt of several complaints of reported office break-ins and theft that specifically targets computers.
Enanga told The Sunrise that they have tried to investigate those cases but with little success so far owing to the lack of sufficient evidence leading to a successful prosecution.