The military police has this Thursday removed all promotional materials bearing National Unity Platform (NUP) symbols from different parts of Kampala.
Posters were defaced while banners were pulled down across the city centre and dumped on waiting police trucks.
The move comes just a day after a joint security force raided National Unity Platform (NUP) offices in Kamwokya, Kampala.
Police spokesperson Fred Enanga said the security operation was “Targeting all locations illegally manufacturing, supplying, distributing, selling and using uniforms and accoutrements whose ownership and patented designs was gazetted and an exclusive preserve of the armed forces.”
Dozens of vendors and traders involved in supplying these materials were arrested by police and detained in different parts of Kampala.
Uganda’s armed forces last year threatened to prosecute people found in possession of military accessories, insignia, decoration and uniform – including the red beret used as a symbol of the opposition movement, People Power.
According to the Uganda Gazette of September 18, 2019, “members of the public are hereby informed that unless granted authority by a competent military authority it is prohibited to sell, offer, or expose for sale, wear or use any uniform so nearly resembling the uniform of the defence forces and likely to deceive the public.”
The People Power’s party uniform is a red shirt, black trousers and a red beret.
Bobi Wine rejected the military’s warning and vowed to continue using the Red Beret.
Expert speaks out
Bernard Sabiiti, a researcher and political commentator, says “NUP’s fetishization of military paraphernalia scares the state because any imitation of its symbols of power diminishes and demystifies its power monopoly and might embolden certain opposition radicals to directly and brazenly challenge it, militarily.”
Red flags were first used in the 1848 French Revolution to represent “the blood of angry workers” and it remained the colour for the political left – being taken up by socialist, communist and other left-wing radicals.
Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) used the red beret to represent the blood shed by those who have died during the struggle for economic freedom.
Sabiiti said the raid of NUP offices “was to preempt this embodiment; to remind all and sundry that even the very idea of imitating the mere clothes of the ultimate symbol of power in Uganda (the military) can get you spanked.”
Sabiiti further argued that, “This is a product of our very violent history where the military has played oversized role in our politics. You don’t see Kenya’s opposition with military insignia for example.”