The Uganda Law Society (ULS) yesterday said the Monday clamp-down on the walk-to-work campaigners was inhumane, brutal, and that restrictions on constitutional freedoms were turning Uganda into a police state.
ULS president Bruce Kyerere told a news conference in Kampala that it was unconstitutional and uncouth to arrest political leaders and other members of society who walked to work.
He said there is no law that prohibits people from walking as long as they are not infringing on the rights of others. “The question of whether this is illegal or not has already been [resolved] in the case of Muwanga Kivumbi vs the government of Uganda. The powers under section 32 of the Police Act under which the Force draws its power to stop demonstration or any assembly was quashed because it was prohibitive as it infringes on the rights of people,” Mr Kyerere said.
He added: “If all of us are to ask for permission to walk, then this is a police state” Mr Kivumbi, a Democratic Party supporter dragged government to the Constitutional Court in 2005 over the police’ insistence that whoever wanted to stage a demonstration must first seek clearance.
However, ever since the Constitutional Court ruled on the matter, the police consistently refuses to allow civil, political and other individuals, the right to demonstrate or show displeasure towards government.
“We, therefore, wish to condemn the brutal manner in which people were arrested and I would want to challenge the police to prove that any of those arrested contravened any law? Let them (police) come out and show the public”
Opposition politicians including FDC leader Dr Kizza Besigye and Democratic Party president Norbert Mao were arrested on Monday morning and charged hours later with incitement to cause violence and failure to obey lawful orders when they attempted to walk to work in protest over high fuel prices.
The US and British governments and a host of organisations have voiced their concerns at the way police manhandled the walkers, especially Dr Besigye, Mr Mao and other top politicians.
Mr Kyerere yesterday said that police acted outside the law. He also revealed that ULS had written to the Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, and the Chief Justice for a meeting over the ignorance of police about major Constitutional Court rulings.
“We have already sought audience with the IGP, Chief Justice as the custodian of the law and Uganda Human Rights Commission over this. Of course, Kayihura is a lawyer and we would love to see him respect the decisions of court. Why should he preside over an institution that doesn’t respect court decisions?” he said.