UHRC warns police on public order management, summons IGP Ochola

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Inspector-General of Police Martin Okoth Ochola

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has called on the Uganda Police to put an end to illegal and unconstitutional acts witnessed during Public Order Management. UHRC have summoned the IGP Okoth Ochola to appear before the commission on May 4, 2023.

In a statement issued on Thursday 27, April 2023, UHRC Chairperson Mariam Wangadya expressed concern that the police continue to violently disrupt lawful gatherings and peaceful demonstrations convened by elected leaders and other Ugandans.

Wangadya stressed that elected leaders, by virtue of their mandate, must interact with members of the constituencies they represent to ensure meaningful representation. “Members of the public also have the right to seek the intervention of the elected leaders through lawful and peaceful means. The recent events are therefore not only very unfortunate but also illegal, unconstitutional and must stop,” she said.

The Chairperson made reference to the incident where the police disrupted the belated Women’s Day celebrations in Mityana organized by District Woman Member of Parliament, Joyce Baagala Ntwatwa. During the event, Baagala and her supporters, who had gathered to commemorate the day, were sprayed with tear gas and water by the police under the guise of holding an illegal assembly. Several people were injured, and others were arrested.

Meanwhile, in Mityana and Buyende districts, other events attended by government officials were not disrupted. The Chairperson reminded the Uganda Police of the Constitutional right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, demonstrate peacefully, as well as freedom of association as enshrined in Article 29(a).

She further referred to Article 221, which requires security forces to observe and respect human rights and freedoms in the performance of their functions. Wangadya said that following the events in Mityana, the Commission sought an explanation from the Police Force in a letter dated 2nd April 2023, but it has not received any response.

“Unfortunately, we have not received any response from the Police to our communication, an act we consider contemptuous. Instead, the Commission has taken note of other violent actions by the police including assaulting the Woman Member of Parliament for Buvuma, Suzan Mugabi on 21st April 2023 together with the District Speaker Gad Daniel Onyango” reads the statement in part.

The Chairperson further mentioned the arrest of intern doctors on 24th April 2023. They were violently arrested as they attempted to deliver a petition to the Speaker of Parliament over their welfare concerns. “Scenes of Medical Doctors being rounded up like terrorists should not have a place in Uganda today,” noted the Chairperson. Following the assault on Mugabi and others, the Inspector General of Police suspended 11 police officers.

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However, the Commission remains concerned about the growing trend of highhandedness in public order management, incidents of which cannot be dismissed as isolated and perpetrated by a few officers.   The Chairperson says that the Commission will continue to engage with the police leadership and urged professionalism.

On Wednesday, while attending the launch of a report into the study of institutional oversight in crisis management of Uganda’s COVID-19 Funds by the Human Rights and Peace Center, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayeebwa, expressed dismay at the acts of some security agencies.

“Now what is wrong with Women’s Day celebrations? And how does the regime benefit from your acts? Are you even doing it for the regime? Sometimes I wonder if these people are not just saboteurs trying to sabotage the regime” remarked Tayeebwa.

On Wednesday 26, April 2023, women MPs from the opposition petitioned the Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, to join them in a demonstration to protest harassment by the security agencies following the foiling of their belated Women’s Day celebrations in the respective districts, which have been blocked.

They also want the responsible security officers charged, and the Minister for the Presidency, Milly Babirye Babalanda, together with Resident District Commissioners (RDC) who blocked their celebrations summoned to the Parliamentary Defense and Internal Affairs Committee.