Uganda designated the red beret and tunic as official military clothing that could land civilians who wear them in jail, essentially banning the uniform of opposition leader Bobi Wine and his supporters.
The pop star turned leading opposition figure, who has announced he is running for president against longtime leader Yoweri Museveni in 2021, has made the red beret his signature, calling it a “symbol of resistance”.
However the beret, also worn by some soldiers, was included in Uganda’s first ever gazette of all military clothing, which states that any member of the public found in possession of the items “is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.”
“The dress code for the UPDF (Uganda People’s Defence Forces) 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,” army spokesperson Richard Karemire said in a statement.
“It manifests the commitment to define identity and outlook of a professional army as well as adhering to the EAC (East African Community) protocols,” he added.
Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, said in a statement emailed to AFP that the beret ban was “a sham”.
“It is a blatant attempt to suffocate a successful threat to the autocratic status quo. But People Power is more than a red beret, we are bigger than our symbol. We are a booming political movement fighting for the future of Uganda and we will continue our struggle for democracy and prosperity for all Ugandans.”
His party’s youth leader Ivan Boowe said they would not stop wearing it.
“No amount of intimidation will make us fear to exercise our rights. By designating our dress code as a military wear, the government is moving to attempt to ban the People Power Movement and we are ready to face any action government takes,” he said.