Ugandan Political Parties under the Inter Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) have agreed on a number of proposed regulations to guide the implementation of the Public Order Management Act (POMA) 2013.
On April 25, 2019, the IPOD Council and government formed a committee comprising the Attorney General and the Secretaries of the five Political parties [NRM, Justice Forum, FDC, DP, UPC] to take account the experience, developments and flaws in the implementation of the POMA and propose draft regulations for streamlining and smoothening the implementation of the Act. The committee was to report back to the Prime Minster Dr Ruhakana Rugunda and the IPOD council within 10 days.
Receiving the committee report on May 7, 2019 at the Office of the Prime Minister, Dr Rugunda told journalists that the team has done its work in the stipulated time and it has proposed how POMA may be improved through regulations.
“There’s an agreement that POMA is a good law in-spite of some small issues that need to be ironed out,” said the Prime Minister.
“This is a determined effort by different political parties to ensure that democracy is strengthened. We are united so that we could establish that our political meetings are carried out in accordance to the law regardless of our political affiliations.”
The committee that met on May 2, 2019 at Victoria Hotel Serena, Kigo adopted two working documents that include, “The harmonised interpretation of POMA 2013 that was jointly issued by the then Attorney General Hon Fred Ruhindi and the Shadow Attorney General Hon Abdul Katuntu adopted in a meeting between the Government of Uganda and a delegation from the Opposition Held on December 8, 2015.” and “The joint communique of the government of Uganda and IPOD on the POMA 2013 issued on April 25, 2019 at Speke Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo.”
With these documents, it was able to propose regulations seeking to among others clarify the power of the Inspector General of Police or authorized officer under Section 3 of POMA by clearly defining who an authorized officer is, clarify the meaning of a public meeting especially what amounts to a public place for the purposes of POMA 2013.
The committee also proposed that government should prescribe the procedure for filing the notice with the Police before a public meeting is held, clarify on what should be included in the Police reply to a notification for a public meeting and also provide for the effect of the police not replying to the notice within 48 hours after receipt of the notice.
Government has also been tasked to prescribe the timeline of conducting a spontaneous meeting and to provide the format of the register, the contents of the register and the procedure of obtaining certified copies of the register.
“We believe that beyond the spirit and letter of POMA 2013, what is most important is the political will on the part of the Government , the Political Parties and Independent Political actors to make POMA 2013 work for all to promote peaceful and democratic engagement as we grow our young multiparty system,” the committee said in its report.
“We call upon the Government of Uganda to spearhead the continuous engagement with key stakeholders like the IPOD and also invest in continuous sensitization initiatives targeting the different law enforcement agencies to appreciate the correct interpretation of the POMA as was laid out in the joint press release of the Attorney General and Shadow Attorney General in December 2015.”
On the other hand, Dr Gerald Siranda, the DP Secretary General who was part of the team that made the proposals, said they agreed that it’s only when a party is going to a public meeting that police should get a notification but when it comes to an internal party meeting police should not be involved.
“Prior, Police has been looking at our notifications as permission requests. We agreed that notification is different and the law says that when we notify you in 48 hours, you must report back; with these proposals we suggested that if police does not respond to your letter with the two days, the responsible party should be punished,” said Siranda who is also the IPOD Council Chairperson.
‘With these proposals we want to ensure that Police is not used as a wing to fulfill the ambitions of one party at the expense of others.”