KAMPALA – Five political parties under the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) have issued a set of proposals to government on streamlining the Public Order Management Act (POMA) 2013 which police have been using to block rallies and other gatherings organised by the opposition.
The proposals are contained in a report which was compiled by a committee formed by the IPOD Council on April 25, 2019. The committee comprised the Attorney General and the Secretaries of the five political parties; NRM, Justice Forum, FDC, DP and UPC.
Handing over the report to Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda on Tuesday May 7, Dr Gerald Siranda, the DP Secretary General and IPOD Council chairperson, said the committee proposed regulations seeking to, among others, clarify the power of the Inspector General of Police or authorized officer under Section 3 of POMA and clarify the meaning of a public meeting and what amounts to a public place under POMA 2013.
He said the committee also proposed that government should prescribe the procedure for filing the notice with the Police before a public meeting is held, 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 receipt of the notice.
“Prior, Police has been looking at our notifications as permission requests. We agreed that notification is different and the law says that when we notify you in 48 hours, you must report back; with these proposals, we suggested that if police does not respond to your letter with the two days, the responsible party should be punished,” said Mr Siranda.
“With these proposals, we want to ensure that Police is not used as a wing to fulfil the ambitions of one party at the expense of others,” he added.
The committee also tasked government to prescribe the timeline of conducting a spontaneous meeting and to provide the format of the register, the contents of the register and the procedure of obtaining certified copies of the register.
“We believe that beyond the spirit and letter of POMA 2013, what is most important is the political will on the part of the Government, the Political Parties and Independent Political actors to make POMA 2013 work for all to promote peaceful and democratic engagement as we grow our young multiparty system,” the committee said in its report.
“We call upon the Government of Uganda to spearhead the continuous engagement with key stakeholders like the IPOD and also invest in continuous sensitization initiatives targeting the different law enforcement agencies to appreciate the correct interpretation of the POMA as was laid out in the joint press release of the Attorney General and Shadow Attorney General in December 2015,” the report adds.
Receiving the committee report, Dr Rugunda said the team has done its work in the stipulated time and it has proposed how POMA may be improved through regulations.
“There’s an agreement that POMA is a good law in-spite of some small issues that need to be ironed out,” said the Prime Minister.
“This is a determined effort by different political parties to ensure that democracy is strengthened. We are united so that we could establish that our political meetings are carried out in accordance with the law regardless of our political affiliations.”