Kato Mivule | March 11th 2009
Though Uganda is experiencing a Telecom boom coupled with an increasing young adult middle class and college graduates, the Political establishment sees this as a threat. The young population is very inquisitive and ever learning, thanks to Internet Technology.
Dictators in Africa are scrambling to find ways to control and gag this young adult population by placing control on information. The recent Press Media Control laws in Kenya are testament that control of information is priority for African Dictators.
Uganda’s Parliament is debating on a new bill that would allow Mr. Museveni’s Government to spy on Ugandans by tapping and monitoring private phone and email communication.
MPs on the Information and Communications Technology Committee are right to put Security Minister Amama Mbabazi to task over the Regulation of the Interception of Communication Bill, 2007, which seeks to legalise the tapping and monitoring of private communication. Through the proposed Communications Monitoring Centre, the security minister wants to be authorised to intercept and monitor private mail and phone conversations among others in an effort to “fight terrorism” and bolster national security…
Do not sacrifice civil liberties| Opinions | March 4, 2009
The debate is serious that the Western Press picked on the story. Issues of privacy have continued to be a concern especially after 9-11, 2001 when passed ‘decrees’ to wire tap on Americans and their phone usage…
Opposition MPs in Uganda have condemned a bill to legalise phone-tapping by security agents. They say they fear it will be used by the government for political reasons…The BBC’s Joshua Mmali, said many people in the capital, Kampala, were concerned about invasion of privacy…”Suppose I’m discussing something private with a boyfriend?” one woman said. A banker said he said he did not want business deals being overhead. “I’m 100% against the phone-tapping bill,” he said. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7926367.stm
However, for African Dictators and African leaders who see themselves as infallible and life presidents, technology brings fear of a populist movement and revolts. Therefore most African dictators will unashamedly borrow a leaf from China and how the communist leaders have controlled telecommunications in China.
While china has allowed the growth of internet usage, it has at the same time placed stringent controls on Chinese citizens as to what they can access across the internet. China in such a way had stifled down political and social oppositions that would have used the internet.
Interestingly, it is China that has turned out to be one of the largest financers of Uganda’s Fiber Optic Data Transmission Lines being currently installed in Uganda. I worry about China’s continued multi million investments in Africa, especially in the area of Technology.
While the investments are good, China is not a friend to democracy and freedom of speech. China is found of striking deals with some of Africa’s worst dictators with the latest example being Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
While Africa struggles to help itself bridge the digital divide by investing in Telecommunication Technology, African Dictators are dreaming about using technology to stripe away the little privacy that African citizens have. To African Dictators, Technology is now seen as a tool to control, manipulate populations, and create a police state in the name of “fighting terrorism”.
It was former US president GW Bush who came up with the term “fighting terrorism” and went to the extent of rescinding US civil liberties by tapping into phone and email communications of US Citizens. However, the Obama Administration seems to be taking a different approach and hopefully they can pressure African Dictators not to use the pretext of “fighting terrorism” in their war against free speech and democracy on the African Continent.
However, I do not have hope in Uganda’s legislative body, the Parliament. The largest majority are members of the current President Mr. Museveni. A few years back Mr. Museveni managed to ‘bribe’ a number of members of parliament in Uganda with 5 Million Shillings (about 3000 US Dollars) in what he called a “Facilitation Fee”, as they deliberated on extending Presidential Term Limits. At the end of the day, the Members of Parliament, the majority being from his own party, removed Presidential Term Limits and thus made President Museveni, a Life President.
How can such a Parliament preserve freedom of speech in Uganda? What credibility do they have? Who knows if they have received another “Facilitation Fee” to help pass a new ‘Big Brother’ Legislation so that Mr. Museveni can employ the power of technology to spy on own country men? The new proposed Bill is nothing but a killing of Free Speech and civil liberties in Uganda.