NUP, police disagree on new round of tours

NUP party president Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu stands on top his car as supporters welcome him in Wobulenzi Town Council, Luweero District on September 8, 2023. PHOTO/DAN WANDERA

What you need to know:

  • The police say the Opposition party’s tours were suspended last year after the party breached several of the guidelines issued by the Force.  

The police have again swung into action, and warned that the new rounds of consultative meetings and mobilisation by the National Unity Platform (NUP) party will not be allowed to resume this week. 

NUP announced at the weekend they would resume their nationwide tour and consultative meetings, starting with Kamuli District on Wednesday. 

The itinerary would then take them across the country to Bugweri, Pallisa, Tororo, Mityana, Mukono, Masaka, Kyotera, Bukomansimbi, Masindi, Packwach, Zombo, Koboko, Sembabule, Kiruhura, Bushenyi, Rukungiri, Gulu, and Pader.

The tours, which are planned as part of preparations for the forthcoming 2026 General Election, would conclude with Kitgum District next. 

But Mr Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson, yesterday told journalists that the Force suspended the NUP tours last year after the party breached several of the guidelines issued by the police. 

“The suspension continues until the NUP leadership complies with police guidelines and continues to be law-abiding,” Mr Enanga said. 

“We are aware of their schedule for continuing their consultative meetings, but they should know we have a duty under the Constitution to maintain peace and order. Our priority has always been to ensure Ugandans and visitors enjoy a safe and secure environment,” Mr Enanga said. 

The police spokesperson also said they still stand by last year’s ban on the meetings until some issues are rectified by the Opposition political party.

In September, last year, during the NUP campaign rally in Hoima district, Norman Mugisa, a NUP supporter, reportedly perished in a convoy accompanying NUP president Mr Kyagulanyi. The accident left 10 others with injuries.

Butwn an interview with this publication, said NUP is set to continue with their second round of countrywide consultations. 

“We have followed all the guidelines as any other political party in this country. We are also a registered political party in this country, and we are mandated by the Constitution to hold consultation meetings in all places where our members are,” Mr Mufumbiro said. 

“We encourage all Ugandans to stand with us to ensure a better Uganda. Last time, the police did not stop us. The police found us when we had finished with the first phase of our consultation meetings. And we are sure they will offer the same security they offered in the first phase.” 

Last year, NUP toured several places, including Mayuge, Busia, Mbale, Mbarara, Kasese, Kabale, Arua, and Luweero, among others, where thousands turned up to hear their message. 

However, their mobilisation faced a setback when the police banned the tours, saying NUP had deviated from what had been agreed upon before the police allowed them to go ahead. 

A police statement signed by then Deputy Inspector General of Police Tumusiime Katsigazi, said they couldn’t allow the NUP tours to go on because Kyagulanyi had allegedly attacked President Museveni and threatened to overthrow an elected government. 

“In Kasana-Luweero, the mobilisation activity was used to incite violence, promote sectarianism, make illegitimate calls for the removal of an elected government, and issue defamatory statements against the President of the Republic of Uganda. In view of the above blatant breaches of the guidelines, the activities of the NUP are immediately suspended,” the statement then read in part.

Lawyers weigh in

But constitutional lawyer Peter Walubiri and human rights lawyer Eron Kizza, both dismissed the police move as baseless and unconstitutional, saying the police have no power to stop a public gathering.

 “Under the Public Order Management Act, 2021, as amended and as outlined by the court, you only have to inform the police that tomorrow you will be having a meeting,” Mr Walubiri said.

 “You just inform them so that they can assist with traffic management and other issues, if you’re expecting huge numbers, that’s what the law says. But the police, in spite of judgments of court, in spite of clarification, insist that you have to be cleared,” he added.

He said. “There is no law which requires police clearance.  But, even us in the political class have sometimes written for police clearance, you don’t need police clearance. I have held the parties at my home without police clearance.”

Mr Kiiza urged NUP to continue with the meetings saying, “They are not violent and unarmed gathering. So NUP needs to continue because there is nothing they can do that they have not done legally,”

“The police have no power to stop them because consultative meetings are constitutional right and they are a form of freedom of association and expression,” he added.

Mr Kiiza said: “The Police Act says it has the power to regulate. Regulating is not stopping but facilitating for example, providing security. And if there are people who are criminals within a gathering, to isolate them from the non-criminals.”

What the law says

Section 32(1) of the Uganda Police Force Act, 2006, gives the police power to regulate assemblies and processions. “Any officer in charge of police may issue orders for the purpose of…directing the conduct of assemblies and processions on public roads or streets or at places of public resort and the route by which and the times at which any procession may pass.”

The Public Order Management Act, 2013, says organisers of public meetings must give notice in writing to the police not more than 15 days before the proposed date of the gathering.