Justice Forum (JEEMA) one of the five member parties of the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD), has asked government to respect the constitutional right of freedom of association of all Ugandans.
The call was made by the Party’s President, Asuman Basalirwa, during the IPOD Summit held today at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala.
Basalirwa explained that there is need for government agencies including security organs to uphold human rights including the freedom of association which he said should be the basis of the organization’s dialogue.
“We are here today to be assured of the commitment that from today onwards, this country shall be guided by human rights and freedoms as they appear in our constitution. We need assurance that associational freedoms shall be respected,” he noted.
“We cannot talk about multipartism without the principle aspect of associational freedoms. One of the reasons why some of our colleagues are not here is because of the belief that these freedoms are not respected in the country,” Basalirwa added.
He cited the case of opposition politician and singer Bobi Wine whose music concerts have recently been cancelled by Police claiming he hadn’t complied with the requirements of the law.
UPC President, Jimmy Akena had already noted the FDC had abstained from the summit because they claim that the right to assemble had been curtailed by the ruling National Resistance Movement.
Basalirwa’s remarks come at a time when several opposition politicians have been blocked by Police from holding political rallies in some parts of the country.
The most recent was the blocking of a rally organised by FDC spokesperson, Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, in Kireka on Friday November 16.
Police explained that his rally was not allowed because it was to be held near Joker’s Hotel yet the places was accommodating a number of guests who were waiting for a football game between Uganda Cranes and Cape Verde at Mandela National Stadium the next day. Ssemujju’s home was cordoned off by Police, but he insisted that blocking his rally was move political move by government to curtail People’s freedom of Association.
On Wednesday, Basalirwa further sought assurance and commitment from President Museveni that after the summit, opposition politicians shall not be treated as enemies and that their activities should never be criminalized.
In response, President Yoweri Museveni, who is also the National Chairperson of the ruling National Resistance Movement, explained that no Ugandan has been deprived of his freedom of association except those who organize rallies in market places and those with intentions of destabilize the country.
“You cannot talk about Justice when you say you are a democrat on one side and a terrorist on the other side. Somebody is organizing a demonstration as a trigger of something else which we know. If you come for justice, come with clean hands,” said the President.
“Assembling has three issues, first is venue. Where do you want to hold a public rally – in a market, no. A market is a place for tomatoes and onions. We are not going to allow you to have a rally there. If you want to have a rally in the stadium or another place, yes, there is no problem,” added the President.
He also said that the intention behind organizing a rally should not be suspect.
Museveni said that politicians with intentions to cause the equivalent of the Arab Spring in Uganda under the guise of political rallies will not be tolerated since such actions tantamount to treason.
In a gesture of political maturity, Basalirwa gifted President Museveni a T-shirt he referred to as “a fitting T-shirt”. DP President Norbert Mao had earlier gifted the President a green cap. In both cases, the President received them with joy and smiles on his face and raised them for the guests to see.