Museveni’s Government is threatened by public gatherings. The way people were attracted and made contributions to the ‘people’s parliaments’ (bimeeza) that were checked after the Buganda Riots is a good for reference. However, common sense dictates that when there are ills that people suffer from, it is best to give them avenue to address those ills such that you in authority make effort to address them. But suppressing them because you have created a police state will with time lead to an explosive situation, which the NRM Government would avoid.
William Kituuka Kiwanuka
UGANDA GOVERNMENT TABLES TOUGH PUBLIC ORDER MANAGEMENT BILL
26 October 2011,
A new Bill which seeks to outlaw the use of megaphones, loudspeakers, loud hailer and public address apparatus except with a written permission of the Inspector General of Police or an authorized officer has been tabled before Parliament.
The Public Order Management Bill 2011 tabled in parliament on Tuesday outlaws all apparatus whether artificial or not used for amplifying, broadcasting or reproducing any music or speech or any other sound within in Uganda.
"A person shall not, in a public place or so as to be a public nuisance use megaphones, loudspeaker...," the Bill reads in part.
This will greatly affect street preachers, music and movie sellers and people announcing concerts around the country who have been using megaphones and public address systems on trucks to woo customers.
The Bill describes a public place as "Highway, public park or garden, public bridge, road lane, footway, square, court, alley or passage and any open space to which, for the time being, the public have or are permitted to have access by payment or otherwise."
The minister has powers to declare any place a gazetted area "if the minister is of the opinion that it is desirable in the interests of public tranquility."
If a place is declared a gazetted area, then it will be unlawful for any person to convene a public meeting at which more than 25 persons will be present unless a permit has been obtained by the organizer.
Other provisions in the Bill include; All Public meetings ending by 6.00pm while no meeting can start before 6.00am, the Event organizers providing a steward for every 50 demonstrators or participants in a public meeting.
"They must ensure that all participants are unarmed and peaceful; undertake to compensate any part or person that may suffer loss or damage from any fall out of the public meeting," the Bill states.
Event organizers who fail to comply with the above requirements may face up to two years in jail.
The Bill also requires organisers to give a seven day notice in writing to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) of their intention to hold a public meeting. The notice however should not exceed 15days before the proposed date of the public meeting.
In the notice, the organiser must state their full name, physical and postal address and their immediate contact. Other requirements are the proposed site for the meeting, the estimated number of persons expected, and the purpose of the meeting.
The Bill was tabled by James Baba, the state minister of internal affairs who said it is aimed at prescribing measures for safeguarding public order without compromising the principles of democracy, freedom of association and freedom of speech.
"The inspector General of Police will have the power to direct the conduct of public meetings subject to the law," Baba said.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga committed the Bill to the Committee of Public Service and Local Government for scrutiny.
"Let the committee peruse and report back to the House within 45 days," Kadaga directed.
However, the Bill does not restrict "public meetings held wholly inside a building or convened in good faith for; religious observance, by the government or administration of a district, primarily for sports purposes or for any other social event including a funeral, wedding or party."
The Bill makes it incumbent upon an authorised officer to give notice within 48 hours after receipt of the notice to hold a public meeting to the organiser that it is not possible to hold the proposed public meeting.
Some of the grounds under which a public meeting may not be held are; if notice of another public meeting on the date, at the same time and venue proposed has been received, or if the venue is considered unsuitable for the purposes of crowd and traffic control or will interfere with other lawful business.
However, the Bill provides that in case a person is aggrieved by the decision of the authorised officer he or she may appeal within 14 days to the IGP and if they are still not satisfied with the IGP's explanation then they can appeal to High Court within 30 days.
The Bill gives as duties of a police officer; provision of security to both participants and members of public, assessing the risks of the meeting, identifying a traffic plan for both vehicles and humans and dispersing defiant or unruly crowds at a public meeting "where the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a breach of peace is likely to occur..., in order to prevent violence, restore order and preserve peace."
The Bill restricts the use of fire arms by the police officer to only when in self defence against imminent threat of death or injury, or in defence of others. He or she may use firearms when arresting a person presenting danger, and resisting the officer's authority.
The Bill also states five restricted areas in which no public meeting must take place unless with the permission of an authorised officer. They are; Parliament and its precincts, State House Entebbe, State lodges countrywide, International airports and Courts of Judicature.