Chapter Four Uganda v. National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations


Miscellaneous Cause No. 292 of 2021



Base de données

Espace Civique

Date du jugement

May 9, 2022

Crimes/ violations

Liberté d'Association

Parties involved

Chapter Four Uganda (Applicant) v. National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations (Respondent)

Summary of Ruling

Legal issue

Whether the decision by the NGO Bureau to indefinitely suspend the operations of Chapter Four Uganda was high-handed, arbitrary, ultra vires, procedurally improper and therefore unlawful.


The High Court found that the decision to indefinitely suspend the applicant was irregular because of its indefinite nature. It further held that the NGO Bureau should have carried out comprehensive investigations into Chapter Four Uganda’s operations before it made a decision to suspend the non-governmental organisation. The Court found that Chapter Four Uganda was not afforded a proper right to a fair hearing, it ordered the NGO Bureau to investigate, hear and determine this matter within one month.

Reasoning of the Court

Court reasoned that the powers conferred to the NGO Bureau were not intended to be exercised in such a way that would defeat the entire spirit of the Non-Governmental Organisation Act, 2016 of regulating operations of non-governmental organisations or the civil society sector. In the Court’s wisdom, the suspension without a timeline attached, and the indefinite suspension can be understood to mean the same thing. The power to suspend indefinitely can be challenged on the grounds of being unreasonable notwithstanding the fact that they are granted by the Non-governmental Organizations Act.

Summary of facts

On 28 December 2020, the NGO Bureau, a government institution charged with regulating the work of non-governmental bodies wrote to the applicant’s Executive Director to show cause why the applicant’s permit should not be revoked and their certificate of registration cancelled for non-compliance of the laws that govern the work of non-governmental organizations. On 6 January 2021 in response, the applicant wrote to the NGO Bureau admitting that they had not complied with some of the legal requirements of non-governmental organizations. Despite the written undertaking by the applicant to comply and file their annual returns, they neglected to file annual returns for the year 2020. On 18 August 2021 based upon the failure by the applicant to file any annual returns, a report of the audited books of accounts, source of funding and documents regarding its operations to the district Technical Planning Committee, District NGO Monitoring Committee and the Sub-county NGO Monitoring Committee over four years, the NGO Bureau wrote to the applicant suspending their permit indefinitely. Discontented that the NGO Bureau acted irrationally, illegally or ultra vires in implementing and carrying out its mandate, Chapter Four Uganda petitioned the High Court.

Summary of the proceedings

On 18 August 2021, Non-Governmental Organisation Bureau (NGO Bureau), indefinitely suspended the operations of Chapter Four Uganda. Aggrieved by this decision, Chapter Four Uganda brought an application for judicial review Miscellaneous Cause under Article 42 of the Constitution; Sections 33 and 36 of the Judicature Act, Cap. 13; Rules 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7A, 7B and 8 of the Judicature (Judicial Review) Rules SI No. 11 of 2009 (as amended by S.I. No. 32 of 2019). On 9 May 2022, the High Court made its decision in this matter.

Key jurisprudential elements

This decision meant that all other NGOs that had been indefinitely suspended by the Bureau could resume their operations.