Just a day after government designated the red beret as an official military clothing, ‘People Power’ leader, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (Bobi Wine) has vowed to continue wearing the berets, arguing that his is not an army wear.
Wine who is also the Kyadondo East Member of Parliament has also asked his supporters to keep donning them.
The beret is one of the items won by some sections of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). On Monday, it was included in Uganda’s
first-ever gazette of all military clothing.
By implication, any member of the public found in possession of the items “is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life”, under Section 160 of the 2005 UPDF Act.
Other items, include side caps, bush hats, ceremonial forage caps and camouflaged baseball caps.
The army spokesperson, Brig Richard Karemire on Monday said in a statement that: “The dress code for the UPDF (Uganda People’s Defence Force) has been gazetted. The action was endorsed by the top organs of the army which also commended the dress committee for concluding the task assigned to it years back.”
He explained that the move manifests the commitment to define identity and outlook of a professional army as well as adhering to the EAC (East African Community) protocols.
According to the gazette dated September 18, the sale or wearing of any attire which resembles the army uniform is also banned.
However, while addressing journalists on Tuesday afternoon, Bobi Wine accompanied by ‘People Power’ spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi and a number of his supporters including Members of Parliament, said that a person violates no law by putting on the ‘People Power’ beret.
The red beret has become a signature wear for supporters of Bobi Wine’s political grouping. Since the Kyadondo East legislator and Presidential hopeful was arrested in Arua during a chaotic election in August last year, Bobi Wine has been wearing the res beret as a symbol of opposition to the current government.
Some opposition politicians as well as opposition supporters have since been seen donning the red berets during political activities.
“This is not a UPDF beret, it is a People Power beret. We wear it as a sign against bad governance and dictatorship. It is a symbol of Ugandans yearning for change. We know that President Museveni is using all institutions to abuse and break the law and this is evident in everything he does. He is doing ridiculous things but we all know that this is panic after realising that Ugandans have been awakened,” said Bobi Wine on Tuesday.
“Ugandans should know that they are not committing any crime by putting on red items be it a beret, a hat or a head gear not only on the head but the whole body. Let us make them regret ever trying to stop us from wearing the red beret”
“I want to encourage all of you to continue wearing the red beret because it is not a UPDF gear. Please do not put on the army cap, just put on the People Power beret,” he added.
According to Wine, the ban by the army is only an encouragement to other Ugandans to join the struggle for political change.
“Not everybody is wearing the beret. As you can see, Hon Mbwatekamwa is wearing a hat which resembles that of President Museveni but with a People Power symbol. A few other comrades who do not have the beret put on what they have to communicate what they want,” noted Bobi Wine.
“If you have a beret, a red hat, a red vest or even a red bandana, please put it on,” said the legislator.
He intends to announce a day when the whole country will be donning red with an intention to send a message of change to people in power, he said.
The ‘People Power’ spokesperson, Joel Ssenyonyi said that President Yoweri Museveni is in dire fear because of efforts by ‘People Power’ to use democratically provided means to unseat him.
“Even if I were him, I would definitely fear and because of that, I will try to put in place any possible means of stopping them and banning berets is one of those means President Museveni is trying to use,” he said.
Wine said there is a big difference between the UPDF beret and that of ‘People Power’.
“The military beret contains a UPDF badge, but ours contains a badge with a logo of People Power. Many Ugandans especially those tired of this regime have continuously yearned for the berets,” he added.
He appealed to his supporters to wear the berets more that how they have been doing.
On his part, Kasanda North legislator, Patrick Nsamba Oshabe questioned the motive of the decision by the army to ban the red berets, claiming it is intended to defend the NRM regime and keep them in power.
“Constitutionally, their responsibility is to protect us Ugandans irrespective of what we believe in. Unfortunately, on many occasions, they have shown us that they are not serving us by President Museveni and his regime,” he said.
He says they started donning the berets in 2017 and government remained mute, questioning why it came out yesterday.