The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) presidential candidate Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday ordered police and other authorities to stop arresting people for being ‘idle and disorderly”.
The NRM leader who was addressing his supporters at Kazo grounds in the new Nansana Municipality, Wakiso District, tasked his aides at State House to remind him to engineer the repeal of the law criminalising ‘idle and disorderly’ persons.
Individuals at the rally cheered wildly, telling them that police and Kampala Capital City Authority enforcement officers have been using the legal provision to harass them “endlessly”.
“I hear they arrest my people in Kampala on ‘idle and disorderly charges’. I don’t want to hear it anymore. Stop arresting my people,” Mr Museveni said, adding: “My people write it down and remind me, I am going to cancel that instrument.”
Only Parliament can amend or repeal Uganda’s law and the court, if petitioned, can annul any legislation inconsistent with the Constitution.
Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, a long-time critic of the law on being idle and disorderly, said it was enacted during the colonial era and is now outmoded and oppressive and should be abolished. Uganda Prisons officials have complained that prisons are crowded with petty offenders, most of them on remand, imposing unnecessary burden on resource-constrained detention facilities.
Although there is consensus on the need to repeal the law, the timing of the president’s proclamation while on a campaign trail is likely to be understood as a gesture for political capital.
At Kazo, Mr Museveni cautioned Ugandans on HIV/Aids and narrated how he advised his children to put “padlocks on their private parts” as a precaution.
Mr Museveni said one in every 10 persons in the more urbanised Wakiso District in central region is HIV-positive yet in Soroti District and Karamoja sub-region in eastern and northeastern Uganda, only one in every 100 people has the disease.
The ‘Steady Progress’
Taking his ‘Steady Progress’, the flagship message of his re-election campaign, to Kyaddondo East constituency in Kasangati, the home of his political rival Dr Kizza Besigye, Mr Museveni preached the gospel of development, wealth creation and called for renewed efforts in the fight against corruption.
The NRM candidate who has been accused by Opposition leaders of offering lip-service in the fight against graft, however, refused to take responsibility, insisting that it’s the people who know the corrupt but have decided to do nothing.
Mr Museveni also addressed two rallies in the two municipalities of Kira and Mukono where he promised to inject more money in the wealth creation funds- Naads (Shs1 trillion), Youth (Shs234b), Innovation (Shs500b), Women (She234b) and Microfinance (Shs180b).
Section 167 of the Penal Code Act criminalises wandering persons, those gambling for cash or prostituting as being idle and disorderly and if convicted in court, they, if prostitutes or involved in soliciting for immoral purpose, face a maximum seven years imprisonment. Other aspects of the offence attract three months in jail or Shs3,000 fine or both.