The National Unity Platform (NUP) has announced that they have no plans to suspend use of their signature red beret, saying that it does not belong to the army.
Following last week’s raid on the NUP Secretariat in Kamwokya, police and the army announced that they had started an operation targeting all locations that are manufacturing, supplying and selling uniforms and accoutrements whose ownership and patented designs was gazetted and an exclusive preserve of the armed forces.
Speaking at a press conference in Kamwokya, Joel Ssenyonyi, the NUP spokesperson said that they felt it important to clarify that their beret does not belong to the army.
Ssenyonyi said, “When you read the UPDF Act, it talks about the badge which is referred to as the insignia. The badge is what matters and if these berets had a police or UPDF insignia, then you can not wear it. These berets have a People Power badge and they belong to us.”
Ssenyonyi said that the party wonders how the armed forces interpret the law because the law does not talk about colours.
“Even if it is an ordinary suit and I put the armed forces badge, it becomes a gazetted item. Our berets don’t have it and we shall continue putting them on,” Ssenyonyi said.
Ssenyonyi challenged army and police officers to put on their berets with their logo, if they say that they belong to them.
What does the law really say?
According to Andrew Ssekibaamu, a lawyer, Section 160 (1)of the UPDF Act that talks about the protection of defence stores states that;
“The Minister shall, by notice published in the Gazette, declare and make known what mark or marks when applied to any arm, clothing, equipment, vehicle, aircraft or boat shall denote them as property of the State.”
According to Ssekibaamu, the red beret then, only becomes military attire if you affix onto it a symbol / badge that was already gazetted by the armed forces as one of its symbols.
“The People Power badge has never been declared a symbol of the UPDF. If you fix the People Power badge on anything, it does not make it a Millitary Attire,” Ssekibaamu said.
In September 2019, the UPDF announced that it had gazetted the red beret as an official attire for the army, a move that struck Bobi Wine’s then People Power pressure group.
According to the gazette signed and confirmed by the Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs, Adolf Mwesige 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.
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 added that the sale or wearing of any attire which resembles the army uniform which also includes the red beret which may deceive the public was also banned.