By Patrick Jaramogi
THE Police have issued new guidelines for public gatherings and events in Kampala. Under the new guidelines issued yesterday, wedding receptions will only go ahead after getting clearance from the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
Kampala metropolitan Police commander Andrew Sorowen yesterday announced the new measures for gatherings of more than five people in the city and its suburbs. The measures cover Kampala Metropolitan area, which includes the city, Entebbe, Wakiso and Mukono districts and parts of Mpigi and Luwero districts.
He said the measures, which he described as â€œremindersâ€, take immediate effect.
â€œWe are sounding a warning. No gathering of more than five people, even if it is in your compound, should be held without clearance from the Inspector General of Police. People intending to hold wedding parties, music galas, football matches and road processions should notify the IGP first,â€ said Sorowen.
â€œWe want to ensure safety of our people. If 32 million Ugandans use their eyes and ears, there will be no space for terrorists in Uganda,â€ he said.
He told New Vision separately that the same measures affect funerals, vigils, last funeral rites (nyimbe) and bibanda, (local makeshift video halls).
He told the press at the Kampala Central Police Station that the Force would â€œblockâ€ gatherings that are not cleared by the IGP.
â€œIt canâ€™t be your human rights to wake up one day and decide to organise a rally. Yet when innocent people die from terrorist bombs, the Government is blamed for not providing security to its citizens. It is our role as police to ensure that citizens of this country are safe,â€ he said.
Sorowen noted that those intending to organise such events must do so in writing and hand-deliver the notification individually to avoid unnecessary delays.
â€œGet this right. We are not saying you should get permission from the Inspector General of Police but notify him. He is the only one who can ensure that enough security is deployed to guarantee safety of the people during such events,â€ he explained.
Sorowen said gatherings would not be allowed in markets.
He also noted that organisers should submit to the Police proof that the venue intended for such gatherings is cleared by the owners.
â€œThe organisers should notify the Police a week in advance and indicate the venue, date, day and number of people expected at such gatherings,â€ he said.
Sorowen said the same applies to funerals and vigils. â€œPlaces like funerals attract very many people. Terrorists can use this chance to cause more mayhem. The vehicles also need protection from vandalism,â€ he added.
Sorowen asked district and divisional Police commanders to ensure that the bibanda (makeshift entertainment structures) have adequate security measures.
â€œThose who canâ€™t afford the security gadgets, should hire bouncers or ask the Police to provide security,â€ he said.
He warned that local authorities that license the bibanda should ensure that they have security safeguards.
The Police have proposed enactment of the Public Order Management Bill which provides for management of public gatherings. But human rights activists and the opposition have criticised it, saying it is an attempt to restrict political demonstrations and assemblies of a similar nature.
But Police chief, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, told journalists last week that the proposed law is meant to ensure that the rights of non-protestors and protestors are safeguarded ahead of the general elections. â€œWhat people require is clearance and not permission,â€ said Kayihura.
The proposed Bill, if passed, would give powers to the Inspector General of Police to â€œregulate the conduct of public meetings.â€