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MPs pass Public order bill in chaos

By Joan Akello

At the start of yesterday’s plenary session, deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah introduced some people like Miria Matembe and school children who were in the gallery.  Drama ensued when Oulanya told the house that voice method instead of roll call to vote the public management bill (2011).

Opposition MPs led by Nandala Mafabi (FDC) requested Oulanyah, to postpone the debate on the Bill, since it was not part of the issues to discuss according to the day’s business.

However, Oulanyah said,”We had a meeting at mid-day and it was agreed that another order paper be issued. The order paper was changed on the directive of the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga,” he said.

Oulanyah asked the Minister of Internal Affairs to present the Bill for the third reading. But both the internal affairs minister Gen. Aronda Nyakairima and his deputy James Baba were present but  Oulanyah put the matter to vote and ruled “the ayes have it,”

Some opposition MPs and one NRM ‘rebel” Mp Muhammed Nsereko booed at Oulanya when he thanked proponents of the bill for passing  it. Mukono Municipality Mp Betti Nmbooze and Beatrice Anywar pleaded for permission to speak but Oulanya moved to the next item on the order paper, the second reading of the industrial property bill.

By the time  he invited the prime minister  Amama Mbabazi to present  the government’s reaction to Nandala’s  response to the state of nation address, most opposition MPs  were off  their seats, screaming “Shame shame Oulanya” while others like Ken Lukyamuzi wanted to grab the mace.  Oulanya suspended Soroti Woman MP Angelina Osege (FDC) from three sittings.

Amama greeted those he said were honourable amidst rebuttal from Osege who said “it is honourable to listen”. After Amama’s  presentation, oulanyah adjourned parliament .

The Bill seeks to regulate public meetings, specifies the duties and responsibilities of the Police and the organisers and participants during public meetings as well as prescribes measures for safeguarding public order.

A person shall notify the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in writing about an intended demonstration or public meeting seven days prior to the event.  Organizers are liable to any damages of property to a fine of Shs I million shillings or jail or both.

The IGP can also authorize a Police officer to issue permission for a public meeting on his behalf on phone and may change venue. The Bill says all public meetings must only take place between 6:00 am to 6:00pm.

The civil society presented a paper to parliament among the recommendations was that whereas the law is good to set the standards of dealing with public order management; it should not and cannot be the only solution to this challenge.

“Indeed, the approach to the management of public order in Uganda should be multifaceted involving all the stakeholders (the organizers-political parties, civil society organizations, the participants and the law enforcement agencies) so as whatever the solution that is proposed is owned by all and implemented as a whole.”

Amnesty International’s African deputy director Sarah Jackson warned the bill might infringe on basic freedoms in the country if passed. And in particular citing the right to organize and participate in public meetings or gatherings which discuss political issues as these would now be subject to heavy restrictions and controls from police.

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