SEPTEMBER 14, 2010: FDC to Fight Bill On Public Assemblies

FDC to Fight Bill On Public Assemblies

SOURCE: The Monitor

By Gerald Bareebe

The proposed law on containment of public assemblies is already generating resistance even before it goes through Cabinet and Parliament. The Public Order Management Bill is being viewed as an attempt to restrict political demonstrations and other assemblies of a similar nature.

Human rights organisations warned last week about government's alleged intension to further curtail and control fundamental freedoms like assembly, expression and speech.

Now the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) which has borne the brunt of violent dispersal of demonstrations warns it will not respect the law should government push it through ahead of the 2011 general elections.

Mr Wafula Oguttu, the party spokesperson, told journalists at the party headquarters yesterday that the party's legal team plans to challenge the Bill in the Constitutional Court as soon as it is passed by Parliament.

However, Police chief, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura told Daily Monitor at the weekend that the new law is meant to ensure that the rights of non-protestors and protestors are safeguarded ahead of the general elections.

The Bill, a draft of which Daily Monitor has obtained, if passed in its entirety, would give powers to the Inspector General of Police to "regulate the conduct of public meetings" with the aim of "safeguarding public order and related matters".

But Mr Oguttu said yesterday that the Bill is meant to stifle civil liberties, especially the right of Ugandans to peacefully assemble and right to petition the government over any of their grievances.

"The new Bill is against the Constitution of Uganda," Mr Oguttu said. "It is very useless and we shall ask court to stop it before it is applied because it is inconsistent with the Constitution."

Police defence

Although Maj. Gen. Kayihura, told a political dialogue in Mukono last week that the new law was meant to handle politicians who think the right to assemble and demonstrate is absolute, Mr Oguttu said the Bill is meant to check on the opposition's rising popularity in urban areas.

"How can you say that if three people want to assemble, they must get permission from the IGP? I wonder how the IGP can bring a law that is silly like that," Mr Oguttu said.

Police and opposition politicians have been involved in several face-offs during rallies for reportedly not seeking police permission.

The politicians argue that the law only requires them to notify the police of their activities but Gen. Kayihura said such activities required not "necessarily permission but clearance".

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