As the country experiences the 21 days additional lock down arising from the various directives issued H.E the President of the Republic of Uganda, it is important to note that these directives are within the law. The institutions charged with the responsibility to observe and enforce these directives also need to ensure that their actions are within the law. There are a number of legal items to reflect upon as we implement the guidelines.
The Constitution of Uganda as the supreme legal instrument under Objective 23 states that “the State shall institute effective machinery for dealing with any hazard or disaster arising out of natural calamities or any situation resulting in general displacement of people or disruption of their normal life”. COVID-19 has disrupted the normal life of citizens.
The Public Health Act (Cap. 281)
This law empowers the Minister of Health to take measures to combat the spread of an infectious disease. Under this law, a number of statutory instruments have been published to implement the measures given by the Presidential directive to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These instruments include:
- Public Health (Notification of COVID-19) Order,
- SI No 45/2020; Public Health (Prevention of COVID-19) (Requirements and Conditions of Entry into Uganda) Order,
- SI No 46/2020; Public Health (Control of COVID-19) Order,
- SI No 52/2020; and Public Health (Prohibition of Entry into Uganda) Order, SI No 53/2020.
The Public Health Act therefore provides a robust legal framework for the government to implement the directives against COVID-19 in Uganda.
At the Local Government Level, the Local government authorities have the power to enforce these regulations.
The Ministry of Health has remained key as front line personnel in the fight against COVID-19. They have played a significant role by providing technical guidance for government authorities, health workers and other key stakeholders against community spread of the pandemic.
The Security forces have also played an important role against the COVID-19 pandemic, GOU has heavily relied on the supportive role of the security forces which has enhanced the Civil- Military Cooperation in Uganda.
The Public Health crisis resulting from the COVID-19 has had immediate head-on effects which will have longer economic implications. Unsurprisingly, during this time of near-universal crisis, the government has enlisted the armed forces to help in combating the pandemic.
The National Security Council has set up an Inter-Agency Joint Task Force (JTF) at National and Regional levels to support the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Combatting CODIV 19 epidemic in Uganda. The JTF is led by the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces’ (UPDF) Deputy Chief of Defence Forces,
The Security forces in Uganda possess a national command network with experience emergency response and disciplined manpower who can be deployed at relatively short notice to help supplement civilian frontline services during national emergency situations.
The National Security Forces have been deployed to ensure observance of the mandatory quarantine and ensuring compliance to the guidelines.
There have been some allegations of human rights violation and aggravated torture of several women and some men who were being accused of flouting curfew orders and the ban on public spaces. However, the leadership of both the UPDF and UPF have come out clearly and strongly condemned the outrageous and gross acts of misconduct by the officers, who instead of protecting the constitutional and civil rights of the victims, violated it with the excessive use of force. Such cases have been taken seriously and the concerned officers have been arrested and charged in the court martial.
So far there has been a high level of cooperation demonstrated by majority of the people in Uganda in ensuring compliance with the safety measures issued to secure the country from the COVID-19 threat. However, there are some citizens taking risks by failing to stay at home and violated the ban on curfew contrary to the law. Under the Penal Code (CAP 120), a person who does any negligent act, which is and which he or she knows or has reason to believe to be likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.
It is very unfortunate to note the incident where a civilian attacked a UPDF soldier and he lost his eye in an operation to enforce the presidential directive on curfew. It is important that the Citizens to maintain cooperation with security forces and avoid attacking the security forces and defying the directives on COVID-19.
Despite the challenges faced in enforcing the directives on COVID-19 pandemic, we appreciate the health officials and the security officers of integrity who pride themselves on high standards of discipline and professionalism to keep our country and all Ugandans safe and secure. For God and my Country.