Uganda warns of prison for anyone wearing red beret of pop star presidential challenger

Uganda has warned that anyone who wears a red beret in support of pop star-turned-presidential challenger Bobi Wine could go to prison for life.

The government last month declared that the red beret, which Wine has used as part of his “People Power” movement, was “property of the state” and those who wear or sell them would face prosecution under military law, Reuters reported.

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Wine, a 37-year-old pop star whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, denounced the government’s ban as he seeks to defeat longtime Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

Wine, a musician turned politician, has called the government's ban on his red berets "a sham." REUTERS/James Akena

Wine, a musician turned politician, has called the government's ban on his red berets "a sham." REUTERS/James Akena

“This beret ban is a sham. It is a blatant attempt to suffocate a successful threat to the autocratic status quo,” Wine said in a statement.

“But People Power is more than a red beret, we are bigger than our symbol," the statement continued. "We are a booming political movement fighting for the future of Uganda and we will continue our struggle for democracy."

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Wine became a legislator in 2017 and announced his bid for the presidency in July. The pop star has reportedly won widespread support, especially among young Ugandans, thanks in part to his critiques of Museveni put into song lyrics.

His popularity is seen as a threat to Museveni’s reign, according to the outlet. Authorities have broken up Wine’s rallies with tear gas and live rounds and some of his supporters have been jailed.

Last year, Wine was beaten during a campaign and had to seek treatment in the United States, Reuters reported.

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The Ugandan presidential elections are expected to be held in early 2021.

Museveni, who has held power since 1986, has yet to officially declare his re-election bid.