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2020 riots: Army court convicts two for wearing NUP's red berets

Richard Tiriganya (L) and Alex Kadyama

Richard Tiriganya (L) and Alex Kadyama

The army court has convicted two people who were arrested during the November 2020 riots on charges related to wearing red berets. They are Richard Tiriganya and Alex Kadyama aka Abdu Nasur, residents of Mukingo village, Nakawa Division in Kampala district and Makerere Kivulu in Kampala respectively. 

The two who were charged on separate files appeared before the newly appointed Court Martial chairperson Brig Gen Robert Freeman Mugabe who convicted them for the unauthorized wearing of military uniform. 

In Kadyama's case, the court heard that on November 18, 2020 while at the New Taxi Park in Kampala Central Division, the convict without authority was found wearing a red beret resembling one authorized for use by members of the defense forces. 

The beret is a signature headgear for the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP). However, the army designated the beret as official military clothing thereby banning its use by civilians in a gazette issued on September 18, 2019. Members of the public found in possession of the items are liable on conviction to life imprisonment under section 160 of the UPDF Act and seven years under section 164 of the same act. 

This also applies to persons who sell or wear side caps, bush hats, ceremonial forage caps, and camouflaged baseball caps. Court heard that Kadyama who was arrested in November 2020 and charged before court on May 3, 2021, denied the charges and was accordingly remanded to Kitalya government prison where he has been since then.

When the matter came up for mention, Kadyama asked court to allow him to change his plea from not guilty to guilty. Army prosecutors led by Alex Lasto Mukhwana had to read for him the facts of the case, which he confirmed to be true and was accordingly convicted waiting to be sentenced on August 15, 2022.  

On Tiriganya’s part, the court heard that he was also arrested on November 18, 2020, in Mukingo village and produced in court on February 2, 2021. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. He, however, opted to change his plea on Monday hence his conviction.

The prosecution led by Lt. Mukhwana on behalf of the prosecution, asked the court to hand Kadyama and Tiriganya deterrent sentences, arguing that the offences they have been convicted for are rampant within the country, especially among the youth.

The convicts through their lawyer Betty Kamukama asked the military court to give them lenient sentences arguing that they are first-time offenders who have not wasted court's time. Kamukama also asked the court to deduct the time each convict has spent on remand. 

Court Martial chairperson Mugabe adjourned the matter to August 15 to deliver his sentence. The two have gone on record as the first people to be convicted by Mugabe as the court martial chairperson since he assumed office last week.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd