“By copy, hereof, the Executive Director Kampala City Council Authority is also asked to comply with the directive of H.E the President of the Republic of Uganda,” Ochola directs. ‘Idle and disorderly’ laws form part of what are usually referred to as ‘vagrancy laws.’
Inspector General of Police, JM Okoth Ochola UPF Photo
The Inspector General
of Police-IGP, Martins Okoth Ochola has ordered the immediate release of all the
people arrested on charges of being idle and disorderly in line with the
directive is contained in an October 1, 2019 circular addressed to all directors in the Uganda Police Force, Regional
Police Commanders and Divisional/District Police Commanders. “I hereby instruct all police officers to fully comply with
H.E the president’s directive on the above subject matter,” writes Ochola.
The letter is also copied to the Internal Affairs Minister, Permanent
Secretary and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Executive Director. Ochola further directs that all the people arrested by KCCA Enforcement
officers and currently in prison for failure to pay a fine of Shillings 1
million be released with caution.
“By copy, hereof, the Executive Director Kampala City Council
Authority is also asked to comply with the directive of H.E the President of
the Republic of Uganda,” Ochola directs. ‘Idle and disorderly’ laws form part of what are usually
referred to as ‘vagrancy laws.’
These are laws that criminalize persons
regarded as ‘vagrants’- persons who wander from place to place and have no
permanent home or employment, in effect the poor. Museveni has in the past ordered police and
other authorities to stop arresting people for being ‘idle and disorderly”.
the same message while presiding over the International Anti-Corruption day
activities at Kololo Ceremonial grounds in December 2018. The idle and disorderly offense is punishable under section
167 of the Penal Code Act (which is a law providing for crimes and their
The Act criminalizes wandering persons, those gambling for
cash or prostituting as being idle and disorderly and if convicted in court,
they, if prostitutes or involved in soliciting for immoral purpose, face a
maximum seven years imprisonment. Other aspects of the offense attract three
months in jail or 3,000 Shillings fine or both.
A 2016 report by the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion
Forum (HRAPF), a human rights advocacy NGO established that 958 idle and
disorder charges were recorded between 2011 and 2015 at five sampled police
stations in Kampala.
The report also indicated that victims of these arrests are marginalized
persons who arguably rank lowest on the social and economic ladders like commercial
sex workers, street dwellers, street children, drug users, beggars and hawkers
Police normally carries out arrests under these laws in night
swoops and operations, arresting large numbers of people. The report indicated
that despite their popularity in implementation by the police, ‘Idle and
disorderly’ laws are of very little prosecutorial value.
Statistics show that these offenses are hard to prove and in
most cases there is no evidence from police to warrant their sanction for
prosecution. “Even most of those that make it to courts for trial suffer
the same fate. More than half of the cases that went for trial (52.4%) were
dismissed for want of prosecution,” says report.
Data also shows that a number of convictions on the offenses
are a result of the accused persons pleading guilty to the offenses. The
report attributes the pleas of guilt by suspects to avoid long detention
These long detention periods are according to the report felt
by the Uganda Prisons Services who reveal that the prisons harbor a sizable
number of petty offenders charged with ‘Idle and disorderly’ offenses. For
instance, in 2012 alone, such offenders contributed 9.9% of the total prison