Centre for Constitutional Governance v. National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations


Miscellaneous Cause No. 374 of 2020



Base de données

Espace Civique

Date du jugement

July 30, 2021

Crimes/ violations

Liberté d'Association

Parties involved

Centre for Constitutional Governance (Applicant) v. National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations (Respondent)

Summary of Ruling

Legal issue

Whether the actions of NGO Bureau to halt the operations of NEW-U were lawful.


The Court held that the evidence on record indicated that NEW-U was operating as a civil society organization and all its activities and intentions were crafted as a non-governmental organization, which under the law must have been issued with a permit. The Court thus concluded that the NGO Bureau was legally right to halt its operations under the circumstances.

Reasoning of the Court

The Court opined that the applicant’s argument that the NEW-U was free to operate in Uganda without any regulation and such they did not need registered under the Non-governmental Organisation Act, 2016 or as body corporate with capacity to sue or be sued was not legally sustainable. According to the Court an illegal activity cannot be validated by arguments of failure to be registered or to bring yourself within the legal regime governing a particular activity.

Summary of facts

The NGO Bureau exercising its powers under the NGO Act suspended the operations of NEW-U, a loose coalition of over 60 NGOs and natural persons. The Bureau’s decision was based the fact that the association was operating as a civil society without a permit. The applicant a registered organization whose objectives are to promote constitutional governance through carrying out of constitutional literacy campaigns and advocacy across East Africa. The applicant jointly launched the NEW-U a citizen association which aimed at bringing citizens and organizations together to have discourses on democratic governance including election related issue. They argued that since most of the members of the NEW-U were registered and thus had been issued with a permit by the NGO Bureau, the association was legally constituted. With this position in mind, the applicant challenged the actions of the NGO Bureau contending that it did not have powers to halt the operations of NEW-U because its membership is duly registered.

Summary of the proceedings

Centre for Constitutional Governance, a member of the National Election Watch Uganda (NEW-U), was discontented with the decision of the National Bureau for Non-governmental Organisations (NGO Bureau), the government body responsible for licensing and supervising the work of civil society organisations, dated 29 October, 2020 to stop the work of NEW-U. Thus, it brought an application for judicial review under Articles 42 and 50 of the Constitution as well as Sections 36, 38 of the Judicature Act, Cap. 13, Rules 3, 6, 7 and 8 of the Judicature (Judicial Review) Rules, 2009; Rule 4 Judicature (Judicial Review) (Amendment) Rules, 2019.

Key jurisprudential elements

The light to freedom of association is not absolute. It can be limited by law.