Uganda: Army Warns People Power Again On Wearing Red Berets

14 October 2019

The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) has reiterated its warning to Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, and his People Power pressure group supporters to desist from wearing red berets that resemble official army attire.

"If you are engaging in civil activities and you show signs that you are moving to militancy, it is like moving in an area which is not your own. What I see is the red berets making the military to compete with civilians on which attires to wear, which symbols to use," Brig Henry Matsiko, the UPDF chief political commissar, said last Friday during release of a human rights defenders' report tilted 'Democracy on Trial'.

"We have seen non-civil activities that went into the military actions, drawing in the army. When you show signs that you are no longer confident of the civil action and you want to go military, then be ready to face those whose mandate is to defend the authority of the people. So anything that threatens people's authority, it is the role of the UPDF. Anybody who wants to threaten the democratic foundations of Uganda, invites intervention of the UPDF," he added.

However, Mr Joel Senyonyi, the People Power spokesperson, asked the army to stick to their UPDF berets.

"We shall keep wearing them (berets) whenever we want to. The other day, we were at police and we wore them and as I was saying earlier on, we have been anxiously waiting for anyone to be charged with wearing a red beret," Mr Senyonyi said on the sidelines of the report launch.

Last month, government published in the national gazette the UPDF uniforms and other wear that included red berets, which civilians should not wear. The army announced that anyone found wearing them will be prosecuted under the UPDF law.

The ban came two months after People Power launched the attire as one of their campaign brand symbols in preparation for the 2021 general elections.

Recently, Mr Ivan Bwowe, a lawyer, petitioned the High Court in Kampala, challenging the ban.

The matter is still pending before the court.

Meanwhile, the report findings indicated that human rights defenders are struggling to enjoy their freedoms of expression, assembly and association during election periods.

"Some human rights defenders are targeted individually because of their work. An analysis of the violations documented indicates that the attacks were largely influenced by vague and repressive laws such as sections of the Public Order Management Act and Computer Misuse Act," the report reads in part.

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