Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) president Patrick Oboi Amuriat has said the Uganda Police Force is ignorant of the Public Order Management Act (POMA) from which it bases to block party gatherings.
Mr Amuriat says more often than not, the police have contravened the provisions of POMA regarding the need to notify in writing ahead of holding a public meeting.
“We have realised that police don’t know what POMA provides and we would like to try and share with them what the particulars of this law are,” Mr Amuriat said at the party’s weekly press conference at the head offices in Najjanankumbi, Kampala.
The FDC president explained that whereas the Act requires that an organizer of a public event notifies in writing to the authorized officer of the intention to hold a public meeting, at least three days before the proposed date of the public meeting, the police have misunderstood this to mean that they must authorize the event.
“When the law says we should notify the police, it doesn’t mean we ask for permission as police usually insinuate. We always notify them even a week before but they still come and disorganize us,” Mr Amuriat said.
His concerns come days after police attempted to block the party meeting in Ntungamo District as they welcomed former Rwampara MP Vincent Mujuni Kyamadidi to FDC.
Police fired teargas in attempt to disperse party supporters who had turned up at Nyihanga Trading Centre to listen to FDC leaders led by Mr Amuriat and Dr Kizza Besigye.
Yesterday, Mr Amuriat said he will seek dialogue with police leaders on POMA and explain its provisions to them.
POMA, passed in August 2013, grants Police discretion to permit or disallow public meetings.
However, the Opposition leadership argues that police routinely do not respond when they are notified or deny opposition requests to hold gatherings. In some instances, opposition organizers have been told on the day of the event that the site is no longer available.
Senior advocates have also accused police of applying the Act wrongly while dispersing public events.
Section 4 of the law defines a public meeting as “a gathering, assembly, procession or demonstration in a public place or premises held for the purpose of discussing, acting upon, petitioning or expressing views on a matter of public interest.”
Section 4(2) (e) states that a public meeting shall not include “a meeting of the organs of a political party or organisation convened in accordance with the constitution of the party and held exclusively to discuss the affairs of the party.”
MP and lawyer Muwanga Kivumbi says for the parties are supposed to notify police so they facilitate the meetings with security.
MP Kivumbi says: “One is only meant to give police a notice three days in advance and police respond in writing if they have a query. They can object if the venue has been booked, and if there are issues with traffic and crowd control, they have to write, inviting you to discuss an alternative.”