people power ban on red berets
People Power drags government to court following red beret gazette. File Photo

After government’s ban on red berets, currently won by People Power Pressure Group led by Robert Kyagulanyi stage name Bobi Wine, Ivan Boowe, People Power Youth leader has filed a lawsuit against the government.

Boowe, a former Makerere University guild president on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the government, before the Civil Division of the High Court in Kampala for ban on red berets as a military attire.

Boowe argues that it’s unlawful for the government to gazette items that do not exist in Section 160 of the UPDF Act through the Minister of Defence, adding that it’s beyond UPDF’s mandate.

“The act of the Minister of Defence to gazette clothing’s, 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,” Boowe claims.

2005, UPDF Act Section 160 stipulates that the Minister shall notice published in the gazette, declare and make known what mark or marks when applied to any arms, clothing, equipment, vehicles. Aircraft or boats shall denote them as a property of the State.

While Section 160 (2) (c) says that if any person unlawfully receives, possesses, sells or delivers any army clothing, equipment, vehicle, aircraft, or boat bearing a mark referred to in Sub-Section (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 life imprisonment.

people power ban on red berets
People Power drags government to court following red beret gazette. File Photo

However, Boowe in his view says that despite the Defence Minister’s powers to issue a notice published in the gazette, the red beret is not among the items contained in the UPDF Act.

“The notice has grave consequences as it aims to criminalise 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,” Boowe argued.

In his lawsuit filed, Boowe seeks a declaration of the gazette on red berets as illegal by a court, because it’s outside the minister’s mandate and abuse on Uganda’s laws.

According to him, the gazette should be corrected limiting it to the mark or marks as the law states.

“The applicant wants the court to issue an order compelling the respondent (government) to publish in the gazette, a proper notice only limited to a mark or marks by the law,” court’s document stated.

Boowe as well seeks an order from court forbidding security operatives from arresting and prosecuting any Ugandan found dressed in a red beret anywhere in the country.

On September 18, 2019, government issued a gazette on red berets through the Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs, Adolf Mwesigye as one of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) marks, accessories, insignia, decoration and uniform.

The government says it’s illegal for anyone to wear or sell any attire similar to UPDF uniform or it’s accessories, and if found he/she will be dealt with as the law commands.

“The public is hereby informed that the mark accessories, insignia, decoration and uniforms specified in the schedule to this notice, are property of the State or classified stories and anyone found in unlawful possession, selling or dealing in them, shall be prosecuted under the UPDF Act of 2005,” Government gazette on red berets reads in part.

The gazette went further to state subsequent ban on the sale and use of any beret bearing UPDF colours by civilians because it’s misleading to the public and if found, consequences will be severe.

“It’s prohibited to wear or use any decoration supplied authorised for use by any member of the Defence Forces or any decoration and likely to deceive the public,” Defence Minister and Veteran Affairs, Adolf Mwesigye said.

But on Monday 30th Sept 2019, the People Power leader also the Kyadondo East legislator, Robert Kyagulanyi rejected the ban imposed on red berets by UPDF, saying it’s his signature and a symbol of resistance to the current dictatorship prevailing in the country.

Bobi Wine further urged People Power supporters to shun the ban and continue donning red berets, because it’s not illegal, but rather “a sham” basically to frustrate People Power ambitions.

“Continue wearing them please! because we break no law. We shall continue to struggle for democracy in this country we call home,” Bobi Wine informed his supporters at a press conference he arranged in Kamwokya.

“It’s 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 the struggle for democracy and prosperity for all Ugandans,” Bobi Wine stated as he spoke to AFP