Bank of Uganda unfreezes ActionAid accounts

Bank of Uganda (BOU) has finally unfrozen bank accounts of ActionAid Uganda after nearly three months of closure.

“The leadership of ActionAid Uganda is pleased to inform its partners, supporters, and staff that our quest to have our bank accounts unfrozen has been achieved following constructive discussions with some agencies of government,” reads a statement from ActionAid Uganda issued on Saturday.

Despite this, the NGO says it will continue with its suite before court challenging the seizure of their accounts.

“We will however continue to seek restitution within the law, as we are entitled, in order to meet our own obligations to members, donors, and communities we serve. As we have stated before, there was no justifiable basis for the action taken against ActionAid when the police raided our office and confiscated property on 20th September 2017 and the subsequent order to freeze our bank accounts on 6th of October 2017,” reads the statement in part.

Adding; “We welcome the decision to restore activity on these accounts so that ActionAid can continue its mission of strengthening social justice as laid out in our 5th Strategy Paper – Strengthening Struggles for Social Justice.”

ActionAid bank accounts were frozen after a police raid on their offices in September 

BOU froze the five ActionAid accounts including the Ugandan shillings, US dollar, pounds sterling and two Euro accounts in Standard Chartered bank in October following police investigations into allegations of money laundering.

BOU deputy governor Louis Kasakende wrote to the Standard Chartered bank managing director on October 3, explaining that the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) of the police was investigating ActionAid Uganda for alleged conspiracy to commit a felony and money laundering. He directed the bank to freeze the bank accounts pursuant to section 110 of the Financial Institutions Act, 2004.

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“The accounts in question shall remain frozen until otherwise advised by Bank of Uganda,” reads part of the letter.

Arthur Larok, the country director, Action Aid Uganda described the move as unfortunate and erroneous. Police raided the NGO’s offices based in Kasanga in Kampala on September 21 and declared it as a ‘crime scene’ before conducting a search. The officers impounded computers, mobile phone handsets of staff and important documents as part of their investigations.

Police conducted similar raids on the offices of Great Lakes Initiative for Strategic Studies (GLISS) and Uhuru Institute. The police raids came at the height of protests against plans by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party to repeal Article 102(b) of the Constitution to scrap the presidential age limit. Police accused the organisations of funding illegal activities with the aim of destabilising government.

Despite the challenges, ActionAid says it fully cooperated with the police and complied with its obligations to the Financial Intelligence Authority under the Anti-money Laundering Act.

“We encourage other organisations who find themselves in similar situations to do the same because through it we have proved that no wrong doing occurred in the first place,” Action Aid said.

“We also thank the public, civil society in Uganda and globally for the immense show of solidarity during this period. We are deeply grateful to our donors, some of whom undertook diplomatic outreaches and also showed patience when we could not meet some of our contract obligations at the time when our bank accounts were frozen. Some of our donors also showed flexibility to ensure that we could continue implementing basic activities in advancing our mission,” they added.

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