October 12, 2021

New opposition pressure group must seek permission to hold meetings, says Police

Dr Kizza Besigye president of the new pressure group

Police have said the new opposition pressure group, the People’s Front for Transition (PFT) must seek permission, especially from the Ministry of Health before holding meetings.

A section of opposition politicians last week launched a new pressure group that they said is the new front to oust President Museveni from power. The group said they would soon launch a series of activities in various parts of the country.

However, addressing journalists on Monday, police spokesperson Fred Enanga said whereas members of the new pressure group have a right to assemble, they must seek permission since the meetings are against the guidelines put in place to control the spread of Covid.

“Although it is a fundamental for Ugandan to peacefully assemble, all meetings and assemblies are still restricted under the public health orders that in place due to existence of Covid in the country. We will only respect the right of people to assemble only if they have the full proof of their clearance from the Ministry of Health,”Enanga said.

In 2019, the Constitutional Court nullified some sections of the Police Act, reducing powers of the police to disperse public gatherings.

The in the judgment, the court declared Section 36 of the Police Act unconstitutional since it authorises and legitimises police brutality against innocent citizens.

Last year, the Constitutional Court nullified section 8 of Public Order Management Act which gave discretionary powers to the Inspector General of Police who in turn can delegate or authorize any other officer to stop or prevent the holding of public meetings.

Government has since appealed against the ruling.

Speaking on Monday, the police spokesperson said whereas some provisions of the Public Order Management Act had been nullified by court, many others are still in existence, adding that they will be enforcing them.

“We shall also need proof of their peaceful means through observing the provisions of the Public Order Management Act. Yes section 8 on the powers of IGP authorized officer was suspended but other provisions of the law on notice of public meetings by authorized officers still stand,”Enanga said.

He noted that before any meeting is cleared to go on, the organisers must on top of the clearance from Ministry of Health show proof of clearance from the venue, traffic plan, time, location and any other details of the planned meeting.

“It is their duty to inform police of the date, time, location and consent of the venue, number of persons and purpose of the meeting They also have a duty to adhere to the criteria for public meetings like, traffic flow plan, sufficient number of stewards proportionate to the number of people gathering,”Enanga said.

“If they are not able to meet these demands, we advise them to avid using crowded places like markets but look for alternatives.”

The police spokesperson urged the leaders of the new pressure group to use other “scientific” and “lawful” means including social media to communicate to the public other than public gatherings if they cant adhere to the guidelines.

It remains to be seen whether the opposition politicians will adhere to the guidelines by police but if history is to go by, police is set to resume running battles with members of the new pressure group since they will not adhere to directive.

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