People power architect and musician turned leading opposition figure Bobi Wine has denounced the government’s move to outlaw civilian use of red berets, a signature symbol of his movement.
In a statement late on Monday, after news emerged over the government’s decision in September to designate the red beret as official military clothing that could land civilians who wear it in jail, Bobi Wine called the ban a “sham”.
“This beret ban is a sham. It is a blatant attempt to suffocate a successful threat to the autocratic status quo,” the 37-year-old said.
“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.”
Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, is hoping to unseat longtime leader Yoweri Museveni who has ruled the East African country for 33 years.
He announced in July he is running for the presidency in 2021 and has made the red beret his signature, calling it a “symbol of resistance”.
The red beret was included in Uganda’s first-ever gazette of all military clothing, dated on September 18. People who wear or sell the red beret and other designated pieces of military attire would be prosecuted under military law, authorities said.
“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 spokesman Richard Karemire said on Monday.
“It manifests the commitment to define identity and outlook of a professional army as well as adhering to the EAC [the East African Community] protocols,” he added.
Following the announcement, Ugandans took to social media to poke fun at the decision.