Africa  

Strict new official dress code sparks anger in Uganda

Uganda’s veteran President Yoweri Museveni of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party looks set to win a fifth term in office (AFP Photo/Isaac Kasamani)

Ugandan public servants on Wednesday hit out at a list of strict new rules forbidding them from showing cleavage, having long nails, dyed hair or wearing skirts above the knee.

But for many in the conservative east African nation, the main concern seemed to be the cost of implementing the rules, rather than the rules themselves, and the fact that workers had not been consulted.

“Women get less pay. This directive will make women fear going to workplaces for fear of losing their jobs because they don’t have money to buy new dresses and change hairstyles,” said Agnes Kunihira, the workers representative in parliament told AFP.

Winifred Akech, 34, a public officer in one of the government agencies told AFP, she was forced to borrow money to cut her hair as the hairstyle she had was banned under the new directive.

“I didn’t have money to go to a salon and cut my hair because it has a tint (colour) and was forced to borrow from a friend. This is embarrassing to me. Secondly, I feel my right to a hairstyle of my choice is being trampled upon,” she said.

A statement from the ministry of public service on Tuesday outlined the list of strict rules, saying that public officers had been dressing indecently.

It said women should not wear tight clothes, skirts or dresses above the knees or reveal their back or cleavage.

Civil servants “are also required to keep their hair neat without colour, on top of maintaining polished short nails not more than three centimetres.”

“Exaggerated make-up” is also a no-no.

Men are required to wear trousers — but not too tight — jackets, a neck-tie and closed shoes.

According to the statement those contravening the rules would be given a warning, and repeat offenders would face disciplinary action.

Outspoken Ugandan academic Stella Nyanzi, who is currently on trial for cyber harassment for calling President Yoweri Museveni a “pair of buttocks”, did not hold back on her Facebook page about the new guidelines.

“Who really cares what public servants in Uganda wear, when the emperor walks around naked?” she wrote, again taking aim at Museveni’s buttocks with a series of colourful descriptions.

She said the country should not be distracted amid efforts to scrap a presidential age limit of 75 years, widely seen as a bid by Museveni, now 72, to seek a sixth term in office.

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UgandaYoweri Museveni


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