GULU. Civil society organisations in Gulu are protesting the manner in which Gulu Municipality mayor George Labeja is allegedly obstructing the implementation of the Alcohol Ordinance the district passed in November last year.
The accusations follow Mr Labeja’s decision to stop an operation last Thursday in which the police working with municipal enforcement officers and civil society actors were impounding alcohol packaged in sachets and bottles below 250mls from traders.
The operation follows clearance from the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, in a letter dated February 27 directing the district police Commander to enforce the Aalcohol Ordinance, two months after the police halted its operation.
However, while resuming the operation on Thursday, the police led by the officer-in-charge of Gulu Central Police Station, Mr Sparato Bainomugisha, met stiff resistance from Mr Labeja, who stopped their operation.
The police had impounded 10 boxes of Uganda Waragi packaged in sachets, two boxes of Bond 7, Two boxes of Gilbeys all packaged in 200ml glass bottles and three boxes of assorted alcohol in 200ml plastic bottles.
According to Mr Labeja, the implementation of the Alcohol Ordinance was unfairly executed by targeting selected businessmen.
He said officials carrying out the operation failed to raid depots where such alcohol brands are sold but instead turned against traders who bought them knowing they are legal. “Businessmen should not be targeted in this kind of operation because some of them don’t understand the bylaw well. Besides, if the alcohol is being sold at depots, why don’t police and the district officials first begin by impounding them from depots,” Mr Labeja said.
Mr Anthony Okullu, the monitoring and evaluation officer at Comboni Samaritans of Gulu, said Mr Labeja’s action was a signal that he is siding with a section of the businessmen selling banned alcohol.
“In the ordinance, it clearly spells that no alcohol shall be sold in packages less than 250ml but while enforcement officers were carrying out an operation, Mr Labeja stopped them and handed the impounded alcohol back to the traders,” Mr Okullu said.
In an interview with Daily Monitor on Friday, Mr Labeja refuted the claims that he sabotaged the ordinance implementation by siding with businessmen adding that they [Businessmen] need to be sensitised properly.
“I am not against the implementation of the Alcohol Ordinance, what should be done is proper sensitisation of the local businessmen on what to sell.