Public Order Management Act declared null and void

By Sania Babirye

The constitutional court has after six years delivered the judgement outlawing the public order management act ruling that the entire public order management act is inconsistent with the 1995 constitution of Uganda.

In a majority judgement, four out of the five justices led justice Kenneth Kakuru, Geoffrey Kiryabwire,Elizabeth Musoke and Cheborion Barishaki have declared that the said that is used to regulate public demonstrations and gatherings by police raised issues of constitutional interpretations there by declaring null and void section 8 for being unconstitutional.

According to the justices, the act sets a limitation that are far beyond what is demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society and as such void by giving police powers to clear and give permission to public demonstrations and gatherings.

The government through the attorney general had defended the said act claiming that it used it to keep peace, order, and tranquility in the country especially in urban areas to protect shop keepers and businesses from undue interference, however, the four justices have dismissed the said grounds stating that in every democracy,the economy is propelled by Democratic principles and not repression, emphasizing that repression stifles economic growth.

The justices explained that even traders, teacher, doctors, vendors among others would want to be free to demonstrate against unjust taxes and other unjustifiable policies which can be achieved if there isn’t such a law that curtails their protests, public gatherings and demonstrations.

In 2013 civil society organizations including FIDA,DANIVA,rtd.Bishop Zack Niringiye and MP Muwanga kivumbi petitioned the constitutional court seeking orders to declare the POMA inconsistent with the 1995 of the constitution and in contravention of Uganda’s international legal obligations.

“The action of the respondent in enacting and assenting to Section 5 and 6 of the Public Order Management Act, which sections are substantially and materially similar to Section 32(2) of the Police Act that was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in the constitutional petition number 9 of 2005 – Muwanga Kivumbi Vs Attorney General – is inconsistent with and in contravention of Article 92 of the Constitution,” the petition reads in part.

The petition was filed in the wake of the opposition walk to work protests in which FDC’ former presidential candidate was protesting against the increasing cost of living.

However, these claimed that the act was formulated to curtail and silence their voices and also questioned police’s powers to give them permission to hold public gatherings.