Members of Parliament have rejected a Minister’s explanation justifying Police decision to block events organised by the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party.
The Minister of State for Internal Affairs, Hon. Mario Obiga Kania, told a sitting of Parliament on Thursday, 6 December 2018 that Police had blocked prayers and thanksgiving event organised by the FDC at Rukungiri District Stadium because the party had not observed the guidelines under the Public Order Management Act.
Obiga Kania presented the statement in response to concerns raised by the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Betty Aol Ocan, and other Opposition MPs, who said that the Police was acting contrary to the provisions and requirements of the law in blocking party activities and leaders.
Obiga Kania said although FDC had written specifying that it would hold the event on 26 November 2018 attracting over 500 people, as required by the Act, “they lacked a letter of clearance authorising the use of the venue by its owner”.
He said the Police used these reasons to disallow the event.
He added that the actions of Ingrid Turinawe, a senior party member, of inciting the public into violence forced the Police to arrest and charge up to 56 people in Rukungiri Magistrates Court.
MPs however disagreed with the Minister’s explanation and the Police’s interpretation of the Public Order Management Act.
Hon. Harold Muhindo (FDC, Bukonzo East) wondered what motive Police had in interfering with FDC activities even outside Rukungiri.
“Police set up notice saying that the FDC will not hold rallies but only town hall meetings and in hotels in greater Ankole. The party president [Patrick Amuriat] was stopped from accessing these areas,” he said.
“We sought negotiations with the Police in vain; the same law says it is the police’s responsibility to ensure that law and order is maintained instead of curtailing the party from holding its activities,” he added.
Hon. Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi (DP, Butambala) added that the police often misinterpret the law and act wrongly.
“The Police is only supposed to be informed and it can only recommend a different date and venue if a gathering is likely to disrupt business,” he said.
Hon. Theodore Ssekikubo (NRM, Lwemiyaga) said that it is the responsibility of the leaders to nurture the multiparty political system.
“To my dismay, those in charge of nurturing the multiparty political system are instead resisting it. The system was created to avoid the political mistakes of the past,” he said.
Ssekikubo said that people should be allowed to associate freely.
The Chairperson of the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Jacob Oboth (Ind., West Budama South) said that anyone who intends to hold public events should follow guidelines.
He however said that everyone should be tolerant of each other and people should stop having a sense of entitlement.
Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, wondered why people and parties were being blocked from associating whereas the country is following a multiparty system of government.
“It was decided through a referendum that the multiparty system should exist. Why then are people being stopped from associating in their different political parties?” she said.
She called for dialogue between government and other political actors before party meetings are organised and held.