FDC to Meet Police Chiefs to Iron Out ‘Misinterpretation’ of Public Order Law

Anti-riot police officers raid the FDC headquarters in Najjanankubi in 2016

The leadership of Opposition party, FDC are set to meet with the top leaders of the Police to iron out the long standing ‘misinterpretation’ of the provisions of the Public Order Management Act (POMA) which FDC say has led to the continuous crackdown of their activities.

FDC President, Patrick Amuriat says the meeting expected to take place this week will mainly dwell on the controversial law which came into effect in 2013 to streamline public order.

The law was crafted against the backdrop of the chaos and running battles that erupted from FDC strongman Dr Kizza Besigye’s walk-to-work demonstrations and and ‘Save Mabira’ riots in Kampala.

But since its enactment, the law has largely been evoked to quell rallies by the political players in the opposition considered ‘unlawful’ by the Police.

POMA gives police legal powers to stop a ‘public meeting’ and under Section 5, an organiser of such a meeting is compelled to give notice in writing to the authorized officer, at least three days but not more than 15 days before the proposed date of the public meeting.

The same law gives Police the discretion to grant or deny permission to the person intending to hold the event, if either Police learns that the venue or the event is likely to be used to break the law.

But the bone of contention especially for Opposition and other actors such as the civil society has been the interpretation or misinterpretation of the law, claiming the authorities (particularly the Police and government) wrongfully use it to sabotage their activities.

Amuriat told the press on Monday that Section 5 of POMA does not include political parties as one of the groups to notify Police on their intention to hold events. He added that the Police has adamantly failed to distinguish between notifying (as the law states) and seeking permission.

“We want the interpretation of POMA. We know what is in the Act and we want to know where the law says people and organizations are required to seek permission from Police,” he said.

In the planned meeting, leaders from FDC will interact with the Inspector General of Police, Okoth Ochola and his Deputy, Brig Sabiiti Muzeeyi “to help them interpret the law better”.

The FDC President said that it is unfair to stiffle political events well knowing that the nature of their work requires regular engagement with the citizenry.

“If we have to pretend that we are in a multiparty dispensation, we should be allowed to mobilize. We are not going to kneel before the Police,” Amuriat noted.

The move to meet with Police chiefs about the said law comes days after Police used ‘excessive force’ including teargas to disperse opposition supporters who were attending a rally in Rwampara in Mbarara district where Amuriat was holding a consultative rally.

Amuriat wondered why President Museveni and his ruling NRM party continue to hide in the shadow of the Police to suppress opposition activities when they claim to be a mass party.

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