It is now clear that taking advantage of public security, the NRM regime has come up with repressive measures to curtail the rights of people they perceive to be their political opponents. Some of these actions are neither backed by law nor justified.
The recent stand-off between security forces and MP/singer, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, at the end of 2018, is a clear manifestation of an arbitrary, discriminatory and unconstitutional conduct by the government. The police have always urged Bobi Wine to separate music from politics. That the musician should not perform in his capacity as an MP and leader of the People Power movement.
This is part of the reason why Bobi Wine’s Busabala concert on Boxing Day was violently cancelled by the police and other security agencies. It is ironical that the police that claimed that Bobi Wine had not secured security for the revellers, was the same Force that had the capacity to deploy its officers in big numbers to disperse Bobi Wine’s fans instead of giving them security to enable them enjoy their rights.
This was laughable and ridiculous. Basing on unclear and whimsical grounds, the police said the organisers had not complied with the requirements of the Public Order Management Act (POMA). The POMA is a legal move which does not apply to social events as its purpose is clearly spelt out as to regulate “public meetings”, which are defined under Section 4(1) thereof. Entertainment or social events, irrespective of the organiser’s political opinions, do not amount to a public meeting.
The Act excludes its application to social events under Section 4(2)(d). There is no law in Uganda that permits or prescribes restrictions on Bobi Wine’s performances even if he holds divergent political beliefs which are not palatable to the status quo.
Be that as it may, even if such restraining powers were to be in place, it is worth noting that any statutory provision which purports to impose such unreasonable restraints do not pass the constitutionality test. Bobi Wine is simply exercising his constitutional freedom of expression to say and act in a way he wants, provided he does so within the law. Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much, but it also covers all societal needs, including a regime change.
If unreasonably curtailed, freedoms would become a mere shadow of as it was argued successfully in the Supreme Court Case of Charles Onyango Obbo & Anor vs Attorney in a Constitutional Appeal No. 2 of 2002. Therefore, that right cannot be curtailed on any unjustified grounds of public security.
The legal barricades highlighted above raise serious questions of human rights, the rule of law and constitutionalism in respect to Uganda’s international obligations. Bobi Wine, like any other Ugandan, has the right to practise his profession, which is guaranteed both universally and nationally (specifically under Article 40(2) of the Constitution.
Therefore, Bobi Wine like anyone else, should be allowed to enjoy his inalienable freedom of expression and association regardless of his political, cultural, social or economic nature, etc.
Bobi Wine’s fans must not be restricted from receiving his services, so long as they keep law and order.