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Ugandan activist Bobi Wine defies ban on trademark red beret

October 3, 2019
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FILE - In this Monday, July 15, 2019 file photo, pop star-turned-opposition lawmaker Bobi Wine, real name Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, is photographed during an interview with The Associated Press at his home in Magere, Kampala, Uganda. Bobi Wine, whose trademark red beret has become a symbol of opposition to longtime President Yoweri Museveni but which was banned last month, is on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 urging that supporters defy the order. (AP Photo/Ronald Kabuubi, File)
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FILE - In this Monday, July 15, 2019 file photo, pop star-turned-opposition lawmaker Bobi Wine, real name Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, is photographed during an interview with The Associated Press at his home in Magere, Kampala, Uganda. Bobi Wine, whose trademark red beret has become a symbol of opposition to longtime President Yoweri Museveni but which was banned last month, is on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 urging that supporters defy the order. (AP Photo/Ronald Kabuubi, File)

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The Ugandan pop star and opposition figure whose trademark red beret has been banned by the government is urging supporters to defy the order that he calls a “sham.”

The beret worn by Bobi Wine has become a symbol of opposition to longtime President Yoweri Museveni but the government banned it last month, designating it as a military item.

The singer whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu has said he will run for the presidency in 2021, likely against Museveni. He urges the president to retire after three decades in power, saying young people should take over the leadership of the East African nation.

The singer said he believes his movement is being targeted.

“This beret ban is a sham,” he said in a statement. “It is a blatant attempt to suffocate a successful threat to the autocratic status quo. But People Power is more than a red beret.”

Joel Ssenyonyi, a spokesman for the movement, said they would defy the beret ban. “We encourage them to continue doing so,” he said of Wine’s supporters. “They don’t break any law by wearing it.”

The singer has faced beatings and criminal charges, including a treason charge that could prevent him from contesting the presidency if he is convicted. He denies all criminal charges against him.

He came to prominence in 2017 when, as an independent candidate, he won election as a lawmaker representing a constituency near Kampala, the capital. He has been campaigning for other opposition candidates in recent months, raising his profile as a national leader.

He announced in July that would run against Museveni, a U.S. ally on regional security who is increasingly accused by his opponents of wanting to rule for life.

The 75-year-old Museveni remains popular among some Ugandans and is expected to run again after parliament passed legislation removing a clause in the constitution that prevented anyone over 75 from holding the presidency.

Uganda has never witnessed a peaceful transfer of power since the East African country gained independence from Britain in 1962.

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