A former Makerere University guild president has dragged government to court for gazetting red beret as a military attire.
Government through the Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs on September 18, 2019 gazetted the red beret as part of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces’ marks, accessories, insignia, decoration and uniform as provided for under section 160 of the UPDF Act 2005.
In a suit filed before the Civil Division of the High Court in Kampala on Wednesday, Ivan Bwowe said that it was illegal for government through the Minister of Defence to include in the gazette, items not covered by section 160 of the UPDF Act , adding that it was over above its mandate.
“The act of the Minister of Defence to gazette clothing, headgear, boots and other items other than the mark or marks is illegal, ultra vires and an abuse of the law and outside the minister’s legal mandate,”Bwowe argues.
Section 160 of the UPDF Act 2005 stipulates that the minister shall, by notice published in the gazette, declare and make known what mark or marks, when applied to any arms, clothing, equipment, vehicle, aircraft, or boat shall denote them as a property of the state.
Section 160 (2) (c) adds that if any person unlawfully receives, possesses, sells or delivers any army clothing, equipment, vehicle, aircraft, or boat bearing any mark referred to in subsection (1) or forbidden by or under this act to be sold, pledge or otherwise disposal of, commits an offence and is, on conviction, liable to imprisonment for life.
According to the former Makerere University guild president, despite the minister having powers to issue a notice published in the gazette to declare which marks qualify as property of government, the red beret is not part of the items covered in the UPDF Act.
“The notice has grave consequences as it aims to criminalize the wearing of the red beret, black boots and other items by citizens illegally included in the notice included in the gazette as per section 160 and 164 of the UPDF Act 2005.”
Bwowe wants court to issue an order that the warning to the public in the gazette over red beret is illegal, an abuse of the law and outside the minister’s mandate.
“The applicant wants court to issue an order compelling the respondent (government) to publish in the gazette,a proper notice only limited to a mark or marks in accordance with the law,” the court documents read.
The former Makerere University guild president wants court to issue an order restraining state institutions from arresting and prosecuting any citizen for donning the red beret.
In the gazette, government subsequently banned the sale or use of the beret which part of the military uniform by any member of the public or else they face dire consequences.
“It is prohibited to wear or use any decoration supplied or authorised for use by any member of the defence forces or any decoration so nearly resembling that decoration and likely to deceive the public,” the gazette says.
Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine on Monday dismissed the army ban on wearing red berets and urged his supporters to continue donning them.
Continue wearing them please because we break no law. We shall continue to struggle for democracy in this country we call home,”Bobi Wine told supporters during a press conference at Kamwokya.