Uganda Police has issued a warning against meetings held by former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye and the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party officials in a land campaign across the country.
A May 5 warning letter issued by Police spokesperson Asan Kasingye reads: “The Uganda Police would like to warn to desist from the blatant violation of the law [Section Five of the Public Order Management Act] of which the police shall take legal action against the culprits”.
The letter also makes reference to another letter that Police Chief Gen Kale Kayihura reportedly wrote to FDC secretary general “advising them to comply with the provision of the law” but “they have defiantly ignored the said advice”.
Kasingye has also told the public: “We wish to appeal to the members of the public to desist from attending their [FDC and Besigye’s] unlawful assemblies and ignore the messages of incitement and disobedience from the above members of the party.
But Besigye has responded:
A key function of The Uganda Police Force (UPF), under Article 212(b) is to “preserve law and order”. The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Gen Edward Kalekezi Kayihura is supposed to be a lawyer and member of the Uganda Law Society.
The controversial Public Order Management Act (POMA) has been repeatedly cited and used by UPF to stop meetings organised by political parties.
Section 3 of POMA gives the IGP power to “regulate conduct of all public meetings, in accordance with the law”.
Section 4 of POMA (attached) assigns the meaning of a Public Meeting and 4(2)(a) states that “A public meeting DOES NOT INCLUDE a meeting held exclusively for lawful purposes by a public body.
Section 4(4) says: ” For purposes of subsection (2), a PUBLIC BODY includes …….a registered political party or organisation.
I am not a lawyer and, I believe the law is not written for lawyers only. The position of the law above is plainly obvious: POMA can’t be applied to regulate conduct of public meetings, held exclusively for lawful purposes, by political parties!
It now seems that, even in the most obvious meaning of the law, the UPF can choose to ignore or assign its own ridiculous meaning. Those aggrieved would then have to start the endless process of seeking interpretation from court, while conflict continues.
I suggest that for a start, IGP Kayihura should be disciplined by the professional body to which he belongs as a lawyer- the Uganda Law Society.
Secondly, the Uganda Law Society helps us by, once again, seeking the formal interpretation of the POMA provisions cited in the IGP’s letter seeking to violate our rights.
Thirdly, the Parliament of Uganda should do its oversight duty to ensure that public institutions do not subvert their mandate. As a part of doing so, Parliament shouldn’t renew the contract of the serial violator of the law and Constitution, Gen Kayihura.
In the meantime, we shall proceed to exercise our rights without fear or favour.