The parliament of Uganda yesterday passed the controversial Public Order Management Bill (POMB) of 2011 which is also commonly known as the “Anti-Demo Draft Law”. The POMB was passed by the deputy speaker of parliament Hon. Jacob Oulanya amidst fierce interruptions and chanting of hymns by opposition members of parliament. Some of them have since been suspended from parliament during previous debates on the Bill in a space of three months.
During a meeting between the speaker of parliament and some NRM members of parliament there was a switch in orders papers to include the Bill on the day’s agenda and some MPs received order papers which did not include it as part of matters to be considered.
The bill seeks to regulate public meetings, specify the duties and responsibilities of the Police and the organizers and participants during public meetings, as well as prescribe measures for safeguarding public order. This bill when signed by the president of Uganda will be law and it stipulates that a gathering of 3 or more people will be illegal.
The Inspector of General of Police (IPG) has the power to direct the conduct of meetings and organizers should seek permission from the police in writing 7days prior to the meeting. The IGP may also delegate his power to an authorized officer. This was declared unconstitutional In the case of Muwanga Kivumbi V Attorney General (constitutional section 32(3) and therefore an attempt to restore the powers of the IGP to regulate assembly would be unconstitutional.
The police is banned from using firearms to disperse crowds except for self defense but this as we know won’t stop them from using tears gas, sticks and clubs nor roughing up and bundling people onto police pickup trucks.
This bill is an infringement on basic freedoms and rights of citizens and is contrary to article 20 of the constitution which states that “Fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual are inherent and not granted by the state.” And article 29(d) which allows the citizens freedom to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peacefully.
The contentious Article 8 of the POMB makes freedom of assembly a privilege as whoever whishes to hold a public meeting or rally in public places must first seek permission from the police. The places designated as public places are broad and any place can be brought within the definition of the provision.
The Bill raises grave concern about the situation of Human rights and the rule of law in Uganda as it;
• Seeks to reintroduce the provisions of the
Police Act, Cap 303 which were nullified by the Constitutional Court in the case of Muwanga Kivumbi v. The Attorney General of Uganda
(Constitutional Petition No. 9/05);
• Is contrary to Article 92 of the 1995
Constitution of Uganda, which prohibits the enactment of legislation designed
to defeat or overturn a judicial ruling;
• Grants the Inspector General of Police
(IGP) and the Minister of Internal Affairs wide discretionary and unjustifiable
powers over the management of public meetings;
• Places numerous extensive and impractical
obligations on the organizers of public meetings, which are impossible to
• Seeks not only to regulate the conduct of
public meetings but extends to regulate the content of the discussion of issues
at such meetings, in contravention of the right to freedom of speech.
More of the implications of this Bill on citizens of Uganda can be found on the link below: