The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) has stated that they have no problem with the decision by presidential candidate Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, to wear bulletproof vests during his campaign meetings.
The response from UPDF through its spokesperson, Brig Flavia Byekwaso, comes a few hours after Kyagulanyi posted a picture of him and his long-time music partner, Nubian Li, clothed in bodily armor before they embarked on their campaign in the districts of Kibuku, Budaka and Manafwa.
According to Brig Byekwaso, protective gears are not part of the UPDF’s stockpile. “It is not a preserve of security forces. Anyone can buy and wear them. We even make them in Nakasongola under Luweero industries,” Brig Byekwaso said.
The UPDF and police searched the offices of the National Unity Platform-NUP and confiscated berets and suits which have stars and the court of arms which are symbols of the ranks given to the police and military personnel.
More than 100 NUP members have been arrested, charged or released on bail as a result of military and police operations targeting those wearing red berets and other clothing perceived as security reserves.
On 5 November, the deputy police spokesperson, Polly Namaye, issued a statement explaining that the NUP coordinator for Karamoja, Angulo Andrew Lokong, had been detained for having army reserves.
“The operation was carried out in the area of Camp Swahili South division in Moroto municipality. This follows a series of videos that were seen making rounds on social platforms showing youths dressed in clothes similar to government stores (military attire),” Namaye said.
A senior police officer at Kampala headquarters described the UPDF’s decision to ignore Kyagulanyi’s bulletproof vests as a change of mind. The senior policeman said resolutions were made weeks back barring any civilian from procuring body armors except journalists who must be cleared by the defense ministry.
“I think UPDF has changed its mind. I was in a meeting and a certain Colonel was appointed to spearhead a team that would clear media houses planning to procure body armors for their journalists. In that meeting, it was resolved that no person should procure body armors unless cleared by security,” a senior policeman said.
NUP spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi also posted on his social media page a picture of Kyagulanyi saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough must get going, especially when leaders become mis-leaders, and mentors become tormentors when freedom of expression becomes a target of oppression.”