A committee constituted by Prime Minister Hon Ruhakana Rugunda under the auspices of the Inter Party Organization Dialogue (IPOD), has proposed six regulations for the Public Order Management Act (POMA) 2013.
Rugunda says these guidelines will enable the smooth implementation of the law that has since become controversial.
This was announced at a press briefing that was held at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kampala today.
The proposed regulations seek to clarify the power of the Inspector General of Police or authorized officer under section 3 of POMA by clearly defining who an authorized officer is.
They also intend to shed light on the meaning of a public meeting especially what amounts to a public place for the purposes of the POMA 2013; prescribe the procedure for filing the notice with the Police before a public meeting is held; and also clarify on what should be included in the Police reply to a notification for a public meeting and also provide for the effect of the police not replying to the notice within 48 hours after the receipt of the notice.
The guidelines will also seek to prescribe the timeline of conducting a spontaneous meeting and provide for the format of the register, the contents of the register and the procedure of obtaining certified copies of the register.
Addressing the press, Rugunda said these changes are necessary to make POMA work for all political entities in order to promote a vibrant democracy.
“We do expect peaceful meetings from now onwards. We have even agreed that before the regulations are formalized, we should make every effort to ensure we have peaceful political party meetings,” he said.
The Committee said it was inspired and guided by the letter and spirit of the judgement of the constitutional court in the case of Muwanga Kivumbi versus Attorney General 2005 which declared section 32(2) of the Police act unconstitutional.
Section 32(2) of the Police Act declared unconstitutional in that judgement. It read as follows:
“… if it comes to the knowledge of the Inspector General that it is intended to convene any assembly or form any procession on any public road or street or at any place of public resort, and the inspector general has reasonable grounds for believing that the assembly or procession is likely to cause a breach of the peace, the inspector general may , by notice in writing to the person responsible for convening or forming the procession , prohibit the convening of the assembly or forming of the procession..”
The committee said it also was reminded of the opinion of Justice Byamugisha in the above case, with whom the rest of the Justices of the Constitutional court concurred as follows:
“In every society there is always tension between those who desire to be free from annoyance and disorder on one hand to those who believe to have freedom to bring to the attention of their fellow citizens matters which they consider important. Peaceful assemblies and protests are a vital part of every domestic society. They can be a very powerful tool and some of the rights and freedoms that some countries enjoy today were gained because some people were to go out on the street and protest. The way therefore, any legal system strikes a balance between the above mentioned competing interests is an indication of the attitude of that society towards the value it attaches to different sorts of freedom. A society especially a democratic one should be able to tolerate a good deal of annoyance or disorder so as to encourage the greatest possible freedom of expression, particularly political expression.”
In a statement issued on Tuesday, IPOD observed: “In light of the above, the Committee considered the POMA 2013 comprehensively and through very elaborate, candid and fruitful deliberations agreed on a number of proposed regulations to guide the implementation of the POMA.”
Opposition has previously expressed concern over the implementation of POMA, saying it was being used by police to suppress freedom of assembly.
FDC casts Doubt
In an interview with ChimpReports on the sidelines of the event, Mr Harold Kaija the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Deputy Secretary General cast doubt over the whole arrangement.
Elaborating, Kaija said despite ongoing engagements between top party heads, FDC has been prevented from successfully conducting any meeting in five districts of Uganda.
“The whole reason why we came here was to put it to the Prime Minister and tell him that the commitments he gives in the boardroom are different from what is going on in the field,” charged Kaija.
“We pay bills, we have written to them but the IGP does not respond. Nothing has changed and these are people who are using taxpayers’ money. So we are very disappointed,” Kaija bemoaned.
He promised to divulge the party’s next step on this very matter at an appropriate time.