Bobi Wine Supporters Arrested Following Government Ban on Red Berets
Wine says the Ugandan government's ban on red berets—a symbol of his People Power movement—is a "sham" intended to quell the opposition and undermine his run for president.
The Ugandan government has arrested six of Bobi Wine's supporters following a ban on the wearing of red berets—a symbol of the opposition leader's People Power Movement, Reuters reports.
Earlier this month, the government claimed the headgear as "property of the state," restricting it to military use, and warning civilians caught wearing them that they could be arrested and prosecuted under military law.
Joel Ssenyonyi, a spokesperson for People Power, told Reuters that the six young supporters were detained during a news conference in the suburb of Kabalagala on Friday after the police stormed the event. They intended to speak out against the ban. "The youths were emphasizing that we commit no offense when we wear these berets," Ssenyonyi told Reuters. "The beret, it's our symbol. When we wear those berets we identify not just with People Power but with the cause for a better Uganda."
Wine and his supporters publicly defied the ban following its announcement last month. The opposition leader, who announced in July that he would be officially challenging longtime President Yoweri Museveni for the presidency in 2021, responded to the move on Thursday. "This beret ban is a sham. It is a blatant attempt to suffocate a successful threat to the autocratic status quo," he said in a statement. "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 our struggle for democracy," he added.
Wine and members of his People Power Movement have been consistently targeted by Museveni's administration following a bi-election rally last year, when the latter alleged that his motorcade was attacked by Wine. The beret ban appears as yet another attempt by the government to undermine Wine's run for office.
In August, Wine's friend and associate Ziggy Wine, a Ugandan musician and supporter of the People Power Movement died after being abducted and tortured. Days later, Wine was brought up on the charge of "intending to annoy the president" in addition to an initial treason charge.