Weighed by a barrage of concerns against the Public Order Management Bill 2011, government now claims it was the Uganda Human Rights Commission that proposed the contents of the Bill.
The Bill seeks to control public gatherings of events and scaled down the number of accepted gatherings to as few as three people to discuss actions of government as well as those of political parties or organisations. “It was purely on the basis of a guidelines from UHRC that 90 per cent of the guidelines in the Public Order Management Bill were drawn,” said State Minister of Internal Affairs James Baba.
The acting Chairperson of UHRC, Mr Joseph Etima, admitted on Friday that the commission made inputs to the Bill but it was yet to receive a copy of it to see its contents. He, however, said the guidelines that were handed over to government was the work of several other stakeholders who were consulted. “It was a meeting that included civil society organisations, religious institutions, police, the media, political parties, donor, academia and the ministries of Justice and Internal Affairs,” said Mr Etima.
A perusal of the guidelines handed over to government, however, indicates that the most contentious clauses were not part of the proposals from the rights body. What the guidelines said was “exercise of police powers must recognise the need to facilitate rather than hinder demonstrations”.
However, the rights body contradicts itself in the guidelines when it suggested without details that participants in public gatherings are required to “comply with the law and lawful orders as well as to attend the demonstrations unarmed”.
Mr Baba defended the Bill, claiming it was for the ‘safety’ of the public though opposition parties and some civil society groups have said it would curtail freedom of assembly as provided for in the Constitution. “The Bill is aimed at guarding public order without compromising the principles of democracy, freedoms of association and speech,” he said.