Police have bowed down to pressure and admitted they made mistakes in misreading the law and violently breaking up consultative meetings of presidential aspirant and Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine.
The admissions were made during a closed-door meeting presided over by the Electoral Commission (EC) officials at the EC offices in Kampala yesterday between police, Bobi Wine and three other presidential aspirants.
Last year, the EC cleared Bobi Wine and three other presidential aspirants to go out and consult the masses about their candidatures who include Mr. John Herbert Nkugabwa, Mr. Fred Mwesigye, and Mr. Joseph Mwambazi.
Despite clearances by the Electoral Commission, on January 6 when Bobi Wine attempted to hold his first consultative meeting in Gayaza in his constituency, police cordoned off the venue and had violent clashes with his supporters which ended with police firing teargas and live bullets to disperse Bobi Wine supporters.
Bobi Wine was scheduled to hold similar meetings in Gulu District on January 7 and Lira District on January 8 but both functions were blocked after police deployment.
Other scheduled consultative meetings in Adjumani (January 9), Yumbe (January 10), Arua (January 11) and Zombo January 12 were called off following the police crackdown.
Police claimed they broke up the meetings because Bobi Wine violated the law governing public gatherings.
However, after an elaborate briefing about the law by the EC officials yesterday, both police admitted they had misinterpreted some sections of the Public Order Management Act (POMA) and the Presidential Elections Act.
Both Bobi Wine and the police agreed to harmonize their positions to allow the aspirants’ consultations proceed uninterrupted.
The EC team led by the chairman Justice Simon Byabakama said Section 3 of the Presidential Elections Act does not specify how consultations should be carried out. However, he said they had put restrictions on processions and open door consultations as guidelines.
The EC blamed police for misreading provisions of the Public Order Management Act when they demanded unreasonable requirements such as sniffer dogs, firefighters and a risk assessment report from Bobi Wine to allow his meetings. Police admitted they are the ones to provide these requirements.
Shortly after the meeting, Justice Byabakama told journalists that EC had found out that miscommunication, lack of coordination and cooperation between Bobi Wine and police were at the heart of the recent violent clashes between the two.