The police have issued a reminder to leaders of the National Unity Platform (NUP) to adhere to guidelines set for their nationwide tours. These guidelines were put in place to ensure security, prevent breaches of peace, and maintain order during the NUP’s mobilization events and office openings in various regions.
Speaking at a press conference in Kampala, police spokesperson Fred Enanga emphasized the importance of the NUP leaders’ compliance with the established guidelines. He pointed out instances where the NUP had organized campaign events in locations not approved by the police, such as town halls.
Enanga clarified that while political parties have the right to conduct activities within their premises, the Police Act, specifically section 32(1), grants the police the authority to regulate assemblies, public meetings, and processions to ensure public safety and order.
“We are simply reminding them that they need to carry out their activities peacefully, adhere to the rule of law, and operate within the framework agreed upon with territorial commanders,” Enanga stated.
Enanga cited past experiences where unregulated public events resulted in public disorder, property damage, and disruptions to communities. He highlighted the importance of following police directions, even if it meant adjusting routes to party offices to maintain order.
The Public Order Management (POMA) Act of 2013 requires organizers to provide written notice to authorized officers at least three days and no more than 15 days before a public meeting. The notice should include details like the organizer’s name and contact information, consent from the venue owner, proposed date and time, location, estimated attendance, and the purpose of the meeting.
NUP Secretary-General Lewis Rubongoya assured that the party was complying with police guidelines and conducting their activities in designated locations. He mentioned an incident in Mayuge District where they shifted their rally to a different venue following a security alert, demonstrating their commitment to cooperation with the authorities.
These peaceful nationwide tours by the opposition have raised questions about whether the police are now respecting the rights of opposition party politicians in Uganda. Human rights defender and executive director of the Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG), Ms. Sarah Bireete, suggested that the police’s newfound cooperation could be due to international scrutiny of Uganda’s human rights record.
Bireete pointed to international concerns raised by the UN Human Rights Commission, the European Union, and the United States regarding human rights violations in Uganda, especially after the 2021 elections. She also mentioned the World Bank’s suspension of funding to Uganda, partly related to the anti-gay bill but also due to concerns about human rights and inclusive development.
While the police remind NUP party leaders to adhere to guidelines for their nationwide tours, the broader context suggests that international pressure may be influencing Uganda’s approach to respecting the political rights of its citizens. However, some, like Ms. Bireete, see this as a situation where the inherent rights of citizens should not depend on foreign intervention.