A Ugandan lawmaker has condemned as “illegitimate and autocratic” a government ban on political pressure group, the Activists for Change (A4C).
Mathias Mpuga, leader of the A4C, said his supporters plan to defy the ban.
He said his group, which consists mainly of opposition political parties, civil society and human rights groups, also plans to mount a legal challenge.
Attorney General, Peter Nyombi, this week declared the pressure group “an unlawful society.”
“In exercise of the powers conferred on the Attorney General by section 56(2) (C) of the Penal Code Act, Cap. 120. This order may be cited as the Penal Code (Declaration of unlawful societies) Order, 2012. Any society specified in the schedule to this order is declared to be a society dangerous to peace and order in Uganda,” said Nyombi.
Constitutional analysts say the government’s declaration effectively criminalizes all of A4C’s activities, including demonstrations and its walk-to-work campaigns.
But group leader Mpuga said the administration erred in its decision.
“This is a political reaction…and we have agreed that we are going to take on the regime on two fronts,” continued Mpuga. “On the political front by defying the ban, because we believe it has no legal basis in a free and fair society. And then two, we go on to challenge the ban in the constitutional court because we believe we have adequate legal outlets to challenge it and we shall defeat it in the courts of Uganda.”
A4C-organized demonstrations and protests have often turned violent, as supporters clash with police, especially in the capital, Kampala.
Organizers insist their actions are aimed at pressuring the government to address soaring food and fuel prices, which they say puts harsh financial constraints on citizens. But senior administration officials have said the group aims to force a regime change by creating chaos and making the country ungovernable.
Mpuga said the administration’s accusations are unfounded.
“The concerns are not legitimate because very many activists or members of our group have been arrested and land before court, but I can assure you, not a single court has convicted any of our members,” said Mpuga. “The implication here is that the basis for the government to claim that our activities are unlawful has no legal basis.”
Mpuga said the A4C will not relent in its pressure on the government until the country’s challenges are resolved.
“I can assure you that the regime in Kampala has no resort to anything but to succumb or to accept to negotiate with the opposition or wait to actually crumble like most other despots have crumbled in Africa,” said Mpuga.