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A new law that could let Uganda shut down aide groups if it objects to their mission has passed through Parliament today, activists in the region report.
Activists warn that the "NGO bill" is aimed in part at LGBT-supportive groups that are often considered as non-governmental organizations while being vague about their work on behalf of LGBT people in HIV prevention and other areas.
The bill would first require NGOs to get a license, and would then revoke that license if the aide groups have engaged in "any act, which is prejudicial to the interests of Uganda and the dignity of the people of Uganda."
"The vagueness of the bill gives the government the latitude to silence organizations it deems to be operating against the 'public interest' of Uganda, a term which is conveniently undefined," wrote journalist Karen Attiah in a Washington Postop-ed about the proposal in September. "NGOs often fill gaps left by government in delivering social services to citizens."
"NGOs are now in for a tougher ride as the usual last minute laws are being passed in Uganda," wrote Ugandan human rights lawyer Adrian Jjuuko on Twitter today, saying the bill reminds him of the Anti-Homosexuality Act that passed life sentences for gays and lesbians -- only to be repealed after international outcry. "It can be an excuse to stop any NGO," said Jjuuko, who is executive director for an NGO called Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum -- Uganda.
So far, there has been little international attention from the U.S. government or elsewhere to the NGO bill.