The Uganda government is taking action against the popular red beret, calling it official military clothing that could earn the wearer imprisonment for life.
According to the new rule, the sale or wearing of any attire which resembles the army uniform is also banned. Prohibited items include side caps, bush hats, ceremonial forage caps and camouflaged baseball caps.
“It is prohibited to wear or use any decoration supplied or authorized for use by any member of the defense forces or any decoration so nearly resembling that decoration and likely to deceive the public,” the government document said.
“Even if you had just arrived from Mars, you would have figured that there was more to it than that,” observed opinion writer Charles Onyango Obbo of The East African. “The red beret is the trademark of opposition parliamentarian Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, more popularly known as Bobi Wine, and his insurgent “People Power” movement.”
The ban was most likely a move to hamstring People Power, as the country gears up for the 2021 election, wrote Onyango Obbo in a recently published piece. That’s when President Yoweri Museveni will bid for a “record-shattering eighth term, two of them unelected.”
“The new rule doesn’t specifically mention Wine and his brigade and was not issued by a general foaming at the mouth with rage on TV or a president banging tables,” the editorial writer pointed out.
“Still, it was unfashionably old school, straight out of the African political playbook of years gone by. It comes from that time when it was treason to photograph an African government building, and certain death to take a photograph at, let alone near, a military barracks or at an airport.”
Bobi Wine, who announced his run for the presidency last July, has not yet commented on the new rules. But neither he nor his followers plan to change their attire.
A tweet by a People Power follower confirmed: “So I hear Bosco (derogatory nickname for Museveni meaning ‘unsophisticated’) has banned the red beret. Dude is really getting sleepless nights bse of People Power. He forgets that whatever he intends for our harm just pushes us forward. I hear they also want to outlaw People Power as an illegal group. Nonsense! Keep panicking as we keep moving.”