Gay rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo’s trouble with the Ugandan state emanated from its dealings with the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an organization that specializes in, among others, working “tirelessly to advance sexual health and rights for women, girls and LGBTQI+ people” as well as promoting “civil and political rights to amplify the voices of poor and persecuted minorities.”
Opiyo, largely known by his ‘human rights defender’ label, got into trouble when AJWS wired $340,000 (about Shs1.2bn) to the account of Chapter Four Uganda, a human rights organization Opiyo leads.
The Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) and security agencies picked interest in the transfer from AJWS to Chapter Four Uganda.
About two months since the money was wired, FIA and a joint security taskforce arrested Opiyo and charged him with money laundering.
Even when officials at Chapter Four Uganda insist they had previously received almost similar amounts from AJWS, FIA and security agencies seemed to read something more from the funding.
The relationship between Opiyo and opposition politicians like National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine seemed to have made the intelligence officers recommend that further steps be taken.
Western rushed to issue statements calling for the immediate release of Opiyo.
And so did Bobi Wine international lawyer Robert Amsterdam.
Amsterdam even claimed Opiyo was being harassed for playing a role in the November 18 and 19 protests.
So, what is AJWS’ agenda?
AJWS was founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in the US, by Larry Phillips and Larry Simon.
Annually, AJWS injects $34m (about Shs124bn) to promote global human rights.
The charity organization has financed part of Chapter Four Uganda’s activities for the past five years.
The organization claims to have injected money into 519 grassroots organizations in 18 countries in 2020 alone and “enabling them to continue and expand their work to build a more just and dignified world for the most vulnerable people on earth.”
“AJWS grantees work tirelessly to advance sexual health and rights for women, girls and LGBTQI+ people. They promote civil and political rights to amplify the voices of poor and persecuted minorities. They defend the land and water rights of indigenous communities most affected by climate change. And they aid vulnerable communities in the aftermath of devastating natural disasters and humanitarian crises,” reads a statement on the charity’s website.