National Unity Platform (NUP) leader Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, has ordered his supporters to wear the red beret, resurrecting the battle between the army and his camp on the dress code nearly a year later.
In 2018, Bobi Wine ring-fenced the red beret as one of the symbols for his then political pressure group, People Power. The dress code gained popularity especially among the youth who professed support for the musician-turned-politician.
In September last year, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) moved to gazette the Red Beret as one part of the military stores saying it was a way to define the identity and outlook of a professional army as well as adhering to the EAC (East African Community) protocols.
In October last year, police and army raided the NUP offices in Kamwokya and confiscated different paraphernalia including the red berets, saying they were being used outside the law.
The former Kyadondo East legislator says more than 100 supporters of NUP are in jail on charges of wearing the red beret.
Yesterday at the press conference, all the leaders of NUP who emerged from their offices to the tent for the media address were wearing red berets.
Asked why they had resurrected the attire, Bobi Wine said the army had gazetted the dress code but had not worn it a year later and that they were now reclaiming it.
“We dare them to wear the beret if at all it is part of their stores. Why is the law being applied selectively, last week we saw Andrew Mwenda wearing a full UPDF combat and Gen Museveni’s son came out to say it is okay,” Bobi Wine said.
“Let them come and arrest me because I am wearing the red beret which I actually know doesn’t belong to the army but because they are fearing the impact it has made in mobilising they are intimidating all of us,” he added.
Using his official Twitter handle, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the Commander Land Forces of the UPDF, indicated that Mwenda was expressing admiration for the army and there was no cause for alarm.
“My bro Mwenda is part of the massive fan base that UPDF has because of the great work we do. They want to wear our uniforms, hold our guns and even pretend to fly our aircraft. It means nothing. They are just excited beings,” Lt Gen Muhoozi said in a tweet.
Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, the NUP spokesperson, yesterday said: “Just when the spokesperson of UPDF had said they will investigate the matter, (Lt Gen) Muhoozi closed the investigations by saying it is nothing and this kind of impunity will not be tolerated anymore. We shall wear our berets because we know the law,” Mr Ssenyonyi said.
In response to the action of Bobi Wine and his leadership, Lt Col Ronald Kakurungu, the acting UPDF spokesperson, said “We shall get back to the law and see how we handle them. They don’t know what they are talking about and if they are referring to Mwenda’s case, do they know how he got the army uniform? We shall handle them,” Lt Col Kakurungu said.
What the law says
Section 119 (1) of the UPDF Act 2005 stipulates that “Any person found under unlawful possession of any equipment ordinarily being the monopoly of the Defence Forces and other classified stores as prescribed, is subject to military law and can be tried in military courts as appropriate. The offense carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment when convicted.”
Also, Section 160 of the UPDF Act 2005 stipulates that “The minister shall, by notice published in the gazette, declare and make known the marks when applied to any arms, clothing, equipment, vehicle, aircraft, or boat shall donate them as property of the state.