Thursday April 3 2014

Opposition, police strike deal on rallies




Opposition leaders and pro-democracy activists on Wednesday night reached a landmark understanding with senior government officials which if upheld effectively ends the police’s violent breaking-up of their public rallies and mobilisation efforts.

Briefing the media at UPC headquarters, party president Olara Otunnu yesterday announced that the agreement was a litmus test for the Internal Affairs ministry and the Police.

“Like the English say; the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We shall find out the level of seriousness and commitment of the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Inspector General of Police after they gave us their word,” Mr Otunnu said.

If it holds, nationwide public meetings by the ‘Campaign for Free and Fair Elections Now,’ designed to generate support for the push for electoral reforms, will now go on without interference after the campaign’s Coordinating Team (CT) extracted commitments from Minister of Internal Affairs, Gen Aronda Nyakairima.

The understanding reached in the presence of police chief, Gen Kale Kayihura, took place during a compromise meeting held at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds between CT members and a delegation led by Gen Nyakairima.

Wednesday’s meeting was ordered by deputy speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah during a stormy Parliamentary session on Tuesday. During that sitting, opposition politicians had protested police brutality, the arrest and temporary detention of FDC leader Mugisha Muntu and others who were thrown out of Guide Radio in Kasese following a police raid on the station Saturday.

Mr Oulanyah also directed that Gen Nyakairima returns to Parliament on Thursday with a report. But by press time yesterday it was not clear if the minister would be making a statement to the House since he was not scheduled on the day’s order of business.

It was also agreed, journalists were told at yesterday’s briefing, that the minister of internal affairs takes measures within government to stop intimidation of regime opponents and interference by district commissioners in their activities.

The CT said it had yesterday sent an updated programme to Gen Nyakairima and Gen Kayihura showing where and when they plan to host events.
Until Wednesday, the police was insisting that the Opposition and activists were being insincere, with Gen Kayihura observing during a briefing with MPs on Wednesday morning that, in some cases, they wilfully refused to comply with the law on public meetings, thus attracting police action.

Journalists were told that it was further agreed that the IGP opens an investigation into the violent police response to the campaign’s meetings in Mbale, Soroti and Kasese. Gen Kayihura committed to report his findings.

Other resolutions

• Regular consultations to be held between the CT and the Minister’s delegation and the next meeting will take place mid-April.
• CT continues to provide periodically the framework programme and update on the campaign to the Minister of Internal Affairs and IGP.
• A local level, coordination teams continue to communicate arrangements and liaise with District Police Commanders ahead of public meetings.