KAMPALA – City lawyer Asumani Basalirwa has said the army has no power to ban the red berets and accused them of being dragged into politics.
Through gazette notice volume CXII Number 46 which was published on September 18, the army banned the wearing, making and selling of red berets because it is part of any gear resembling UPDF uniform. People Power a pressure group led by Kyadondo East MP Mr Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine has been wearing red berets and a red overall as their brand insignia for political activism seeking regime change.
But Mr Basalirwa, who is also the Bugiri Municipality MP and member of the People Power movement, Section 160 of the UPDF Act grants powers to the minister to gazette particular items.
“By virtual of Section 160 of the UPDF Act (The Minister shall, by notice published in the Gazette, declare and make known what mark or marks, when applied to any arms, clothing, equipment, vehicle, aircraft or boat, shall denote them as a property of the State.) The minister doesn’t declare a colour gazetted, he can only do that to a mark or marks. What has been banned is wearing a red beret with the Court of Arms. We need to understand this from that context,” he said in an interview on Tuesday, October 01, 2019.
“We shall continue to wear our red berets with the People Power symbol and that isn’t criminal. I’m saying this to do away with the notion that this gazette has criminalised or outlawed our red berets,” he added.
Mr Basalirwa said the move shows that the government is scared of People Power.
“You can give this issue a political historical context. The government has been banning the opposition from expressing themselves. When the National Resistance Army (NRA) came to power, the first thing they did was enact the Legal Policy. There is a history of the government using the law to restrict expressions in whatever form they are. This discussion has that context. Did you know that these red berets were banned unofficially, TC has shown people being denied access to Namboole stadium because they’re wearing them? I’ve been told before to remove my red beret before I appear on TV,” he said.
UDPF Spokesperson, Brig Richard Karemire, however, insisted that the process of standardizing the army uniform started way back in 1996 and it has also included five different head gears won by units within the forces.
“The conclusion is a step toward the modernization and professionalization of the force. Identification of forces will be easier thus enhancing command and control. Unauthorized use and access will be controlled” Brig Karemire said.
However, Mr Oscar Kihika, a lawyer, said: “Gazetting is one of the processes of legislating, one of the ways an act becomes law. I don’t know what the hullabaloo is about, this law has been going on. This shouldn’t be politicised because this law has been around since 2005. If you wear a black(any colour) beret without decoration, you’re not breaking any law, but if you have one on with any decoration as stated in sec 160 of the UPDF Act, you’re breaking the law.”