Police have warned that individuals found donning army and other security attires risk being slapped with murder charges.
The army and police have of recent launched operations targeting people donning attires deemed to be a preserve of security personnel or government stores including berets and camouflage clothes.
Addressing journalists on Wednesday, the Criminal Investigations Division spokesperson, Charles Twine Mansio said
“We are going to intensify investigations. We are aware some of these uniforms belong to some of our comrades who were killed. If we get you with that uniform, you must show cause as to why you should not be charged with murder if that uniform belongs to one person who was murdered,” Twine said.
The CID spokesperson said they would use scientific means as evidence to link the suspects found with unauthorized government stores to the murder charges.
“Scientifically we shall prove because the DNA of my jacket stays on the cloth I put on. We can get if even five months after. If you bought it from a colleague or picked it and didn’t return it to authority, it will be very difficult to convince court that you didn’t participate in the murder.”
Twine said the joint security team had carried out an operation in the Sezibwa police region which covers the districts of Buikwe, Buvuma, Kayunga and Njeru, where a joint security operation was conducted where several items including army boots, uniforms and body armor were recovered.
“We wish to inform the public that we shall continue to apprehend all persons got in possession of unauthorized government stores or any items that resemble by design government stores.”
The police and the army recently launched operations targeting illegal use of armed forces uniforms including berets, pips, ranger boots and other attires.
Consequently, several members of the National Unity Platform who were putting on red berets were arrested and arraigned in courts of law.
UPDF later warned whoever is in possession of theirs or the police’s patented designs to voluntarily hand them over.
“Due to continued illegal use of military and police stores and other military/police patented designs, a joint operation is ongoing to recover the same from the public. All in possession of such items are encouraged to voluntarily return them,” Brig. Byekwaso said shortly after the security personnel raid on NUP offices.
Government last year gazetted the red beret similar to one commonly donned by Kyadondo East Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine’s National Unity Platform party supporters.
According to the September, 18, 2019 gazette, the red beret is 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,” reads in part the government gazette.
“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 National Unity Platform has since accused government of witch-hunt by targeting their signature red beret but the army said they were taking back what belongs to them.
Section 170(2) of the Penal Code Act says that any person who, without the authority of the persons upon whose application an order under this section has been made, uses or wears any uniform, badge, button or other distinctive mark described in the order, or any uniform, badge, button or another distinctive mark so closely resembling the same as to lead to the belief that it is a uniform, badge, button or another distinctive mark so described, commits a misdemeanour.
The Penal Code Act, however, doesn’t specify the punishment for this offence but says “when any person is convicted of any offence under this section, the uniform, badge, button or another distinctive mark in respect of which the offence has been committed shall be forfeited unless the Minister shall otherwise order.”
Last year, lawyer, Ivan Bwowe challenged the gazetting and ban on wearing of red beret in courts of law but the case has never been disposed of.