More details have emerged on the organisation which wired over Shs 1.2bn to Chapter 4 Uganda, leading to the arrest and incarceration of human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo.
ChimpReports has established that American Jewish World Service (AJWS), sent a grant of $340,000 (Shs 1.2bn) to Chapter 4 in October, 2020, raising eyebrows among Ugandan officials who started investigating the main objective of the money transfer.
Stephen Tumwesigye, a board member of Chapter 4, described AJWS as one of its “reputable and long-standing donors.”
Tumwesigye said the organisation has received the AJWS grant for the last five years.
“The grant is applied to lawful purposes – defending fundamental rights and freedoms,” said Tumwesigye.
“We don’t fund political activities but defend civil rights activists,” Tumwesigye told ChimpReports by phone on December 26.
He said the grant in question is on Chapter Four’s bank account and not on Opiyo’s personal bank account.
“The money was not withdrawn from the account. It’s meant to fund our activities,” he added.
Opiyo was earlier this week produced at Nakawa Magistrate’s Court to face charges of money laundering under section 3 (c) of the Anti-Money Laundering Act. The government alleges that Opiyo acquired USD 340,000 through ABSA bank in the names of Chapter Four Uganda knowing that the said funds were “proceeds of crime.”
In Uganda, AJWS says on its website that it focuses on “ending discrimination and violence against women, girls and LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people, and defending communities’ access to land, water and natural resources that are being exploited by oil drilling projects.”
Its work includes collecting evidence on and documenting human rights violations, particularly violence against women, LGBTQI+ people and sex workers, as well as abuses of land rights.
AJWS also teaches sex workers and LGBTQI+ people about the laws that protect their rights and also facilitates building of relationships between activists and local, national and international media to raise awareness of human rights violations among others.
While Tumwesigye said Chapter 4 was not involved in political work, sources allege Opiyo has been working with foreign agencies to undermine and possibly bring down President Museveni’s government.
He is reportedly working with U.S. politicians to slap sanctions on senior Ugandan government officials, a claim his close associates deny.
Opiyo, however, admitted in previous media interviews that he helped in lobbying U.S. sanctions against former police boss Gen Kale Kayihura.
It is said government was uncomfortable with Opiyo’s close relationship with opposition leaders in Uganda whom he was reportedly connecting to U.S. officials opposed to President Museveni’s government.
Opiyo’s arrest came against the backdrop of unprecedented political violence that rocked the country following the arrest of opposition politicians, Patrick Amuriat and Robert Kyagulanyi.
President Museveni said then that “some of those groups making trouble in urban areas are supported by outsiders including homosexual groups” that don’t like stability and independence of Uganda.
“They should not divert us. The virus is here and now there is hope of a vaccine. We are also working hard towards finding a cure. They want to create violence so that elections are not held. Elections will be held and they will lose badly,” said Museveni.
Opiyo grew up in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Northern Uganda at the peak of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency.
He would later study law at Makerere University before venturing into human rights activism in 2005.
Chapter 4 today issued a statement saying Opiyo was remanded to Kitalya Government Prison, where he is currently detained.
“Nicholas’ family and the Chapter Four board have been in touch with him, and he informed them that he is in good health and being treated decently by the authorities,” the statement by Chapter 4 reads in part.
He will appear at the Anti-Corruption Court on December 28.