A major Ugandan civil rights group was attacked today. What now?

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) provides services, protection, and community to LGBTIQ people in a country where homosexuality is illegal. Today they were shut down by the NGO Board. That body is in charge of vetting and registering civil society, and as seen in this case, that can be a very political and repressive process. Many groups in the Network have had similar experiences for one reason or another.

Late last year, Namati held a workshop on community organizing that brought together 25 paralegals and staff from across seven countries. SMUG joined us to kick off that workshop, sharing with us how they combine legal empowerment with organizing to build long-term sustainable power. They were the perfect group to learn from. I have known their programs director Pepe for a while now, and I am always in awe of their work.

Have other members of the Network had to deal with NGO registration issues? SMUG has always operated without complete registration due to the government’s unwillingness to allow them to do so. Still, SMUG has long had productive partnerships with the health and human rights departments of the government and has been in operation for over a decade. Those partnerships are obviously in danger. Even more so, the safety of the staff and beneficiaries is at risk as well.

This decision just came down, so it remains to be seen what the fallout will be and what SMUG can do about it. But if others have been through similar circumstances and can offer suggestions of what support would be useful, please do share. For now SMUG has asked for others in civil society to speak out on their behalf.

1 Like