In September 2019, the UPDF announced it had gazetted the red beret as an official attire for the army, a move that struck Bobi Wine’s People Power pressure group.
According to the gazette signed and confirmed by the Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs, Adolf Mwesigye dated September 18, 2019, the red beret was now designated 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.
“The public is hereby informed that the marks accessories, insignia, decoration and uniforms specified in the schedule to this notice are property of the state or classified stores and anyone found in unlawful possession, selling or dealing in them shall be prosecuted under the UPDF Act of 2005,”read in part the government gazette.
Bans sell of red berets
In the gazette, government subsequently, banned the sale and use of the red beret which is part of the military uniform by any member of the public or else they face dire consequences.
Government adds that the sale or wearing of any attire which resembles the army uniform which also includes the red beret which may deceive the public is also banned.
“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 stipulates that any person shall wear such insignia, marks or decorations in accordance with the UPDF Standing Orders issued by the Chief of Defence Forces.
Commenting about the matter, UPDF spokesperson, Brig, Richard Karemire said the gazette manifests the commitment to define identity and outlook of a professional army as well as adhering to the EAC protocols.
“The dress code for the UPDF has been gazette and 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. This development is a milestone in the long history of the UPDF,”Karemire said on twitter.
Whereas government and particularly the UPDF never said anything further, a number of People Power supporters were subsequently arrested by police for donning the red berets.
Speaking at a function in Kampala, the Reserve Forces commander, Lt.Gen.Otema Awany warned Crime Preventers against donning red beret because they are a reserve of the army.
“I am happy that you are donning white caps and not red berets because they(red beret) are for the army,”Lt.Gen.Awany said.
Meanwhile, Bobi Wine’s People Power put up a spirited fight to ensure they retain the red berets that had become synonymous with them.
“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,”Bobi Wine said about the ban.
Meanwhile, government was dragged to court for gazetting the red beret as official military attire.
Ivan Bwowe, a People Power youth leader filed a suit before the Civil Division of the High Court in Kampala accusing government of illegally including the red beret in the items covered by section 160 of the UPDF Act.
“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 argued.
He asked court to issue orders restraining the state institutions from arresting and prosecuting any citizens for donning the red beret.
The case has however never been fixed for hearing.