Right to peaceful assembly under threat in Uganda as Parliament passes Public Order Management Bill

Published: August 9, 2013

Severe restrictions to freedom of assembly are set to become the law of the land in Uganda after Parliament passed the Public Order Management Bill (POMB)1 on Tuesday August 6. Pending in Parliament since 2010, the POMB was abruptly brought up for a vote this week and now awaits presidential approval.

Ugandan civil society is mobilizing to respond to the passage of the POMB. The international community is likewise raising alarms. Indeed, three independent United Nations experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on rights to peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai, issued a joint statement calling on the Government of Uganda to repeal the Bill. The POMB includes several provisions that clearly violate Uganda’s obligations under international law.

Among the most troubling aspects of the POMB are:

  • Granting broad discretion to the Inspector General of Police to “direct the conduct of all public meetings” (Section 4)
  • Criminalizing all demonstrations involving more than three people that do not have official authorization (Section 7(4))
  • Authorizing the use of firearms by police officers without requiring proportionate responses to threats (Section 11)
  • Targeting political speech that relates to “principles, policy, actions or failure of any government, political party or political organization” and demonstrations seeking to “mobilize or demonstrate support for or opposition to the views, principles, policy, actions or omission of any person […] or institution” (Section 6).

ICNL has been working with its partners in Uganda to promote freedom of assembly and association since 2007. We prepared comments on a previous draft of the POMB and are currently analyzing in detail the recently-passed version.  For more information on Uganda, please see Civic Freedom Monitor: Uganda.

1This is the version of the POMB posted on the Ugandan Parliament website, but according to information received from local partners, the version of the POMB enacted by Parliament is different from the version available on the parliamentary website and has not yet been released.