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Activists pin Government on gagging internet users in Uganda

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Internet activists in Uganda Thursday used the third edition of a monthly third edition of Uganda Parliamentary Press Association’s Press Plenary to pin government on using cybercrime legal framework.

While giving a snapshot of the state of internet freedom in Uganda at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala, Geofrey Wokulira Ssebaggala, the Chief Executive Officer of the Unwanted Witness-Uganda, a non-government organisation that advocates for internet freedoms said that government has invested in much in gagging the freedoms of internet users since 2010.

min-tumwebaze-photo“As we speak now, there are a number of things taking place [against] us as Ugandans using the internet and we must be more worried about the trend Uganda is taking and this has a chilling effect on enjoyment of freedoms of expression and right to privacy,” said Ssebaggala.

On the event which was graced by other panelists; Per Lindgarde, the Swedish ambassador to Uganda, Frank Tumwebaze, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Fred Otunnu, the Communications Director at Uganda Communications Commission, Nicolas Opiyo, the Executive Director ChapterFour Uganda, and Caroline Akello Mugisha, an official from NITA-U, Ssebaggala explained that government has inacted a racket of ‘prohibitive’ especially after the Arab spring uprisings.

 “We have seen enactment of different pieces of legislations which appeal to the notion of fighting terrorism like the anti-terrorism act which was amended last year which is being used [against internet users] mainly because it doesn’t have judicial oversight.”

He added, “So, it allows surveillance on individuals and groups and it allows the government to order the telecom companies to reveal internet users’ information at any time.”

 “When you look at the general cybercrime legal framework of Uganda as we talk now, we have done analysis on over eight cybercrime-related laws and we have established that they are all very weak to uphold and protect freedom of expression online.”

Naming all the eight laws; the anti-pornography act, the computer misuse act, the interception of communications act, the electronic transactions act, the electronic signatures act, Ssebaggala asserted that their intention is to “find crimes against those using the internet.”

In Ssebaggala’s view, some of the laws regarding the cybercrime were hurriedly handled which made them lack the basic minimum standards such as defining key elements of the act, singling out the computer misusing act as an example, thus calling for a review to some laws to the suitability of the internationally recognized framework.

“So, to us, we feel that the legal framework doesn’t promote the internet freedoms, but these pieces of legislation take away what is enshrined in our constitution…and we believe that we shall have an engagement with Parliament to ensure that all these laws are reviewed because we have established that there were limited consultations during their enactment” Ssebaggala said

Ssebbaggala also wondered why government would seek to have all these powers against internet users, through putting in place all these stringent laws.

Ssebaggala, also didn’t have kind words for government agencies like Uganda Communications Commission which he accused of shutting down social media platforms twice in one year, NITA-U which he says obtains a lot of people’s personal data and then distribute it to security agencies like Police and Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.

In the same vein, Ssebaggala expressed concerns regarding secret surveillance that is being applied by government lately.

Tumwebaze reacts

However, Minister Tumwebaze, down played Ssebaggala’s concerns, saying that there is nothing much Ugandans should worry about because government always acts in good faith of protecting and securing them.

He said that instead of concentrating on worries, Ugandans should focus on “innovations.”

“Internet is no longer a luxury, but a utility.” Tumwebaze noted.

He disagreed with Ssebaggala on the way laws were enacted, asserting that “the way we do laws in Uganda in my view is the best because they start with ministries going to public, taken to cabinet, goes to parliament, committees where members of the public and stake holders are invited for their input and then taken back to parliament.”

“So, I am surprised to hear my friend [Ssebaggala] crying that the laws we have are prohibitive.” Tumwebaze added.

He therefore defended the legal framework Uganda has regarding the cybercrime amid arguing Ugandans to always criticizing government with a view of improving the existing ones because the cybercrime laws are not unique to Uganda.

 “If you commit a crime online, you will have to be arrested and prosecuted in court and we have no apologies for that. So, let us take these laws in good faith and don’t necessarily blame us [government] for doing what we should be doing,” said Tumwebaze.

 “Cybercrime is real,” Tumwebaze said, “so if it’s real, how do we deal with it and at the same time protecting the rights of the internet users?”

He appealed to the internet activists mainly Unwanted Witness to always guide government on how to balance the two interests, other than criticizing the government.

By Witness Radio Team

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Beijing proposes seven-point plan for upgrading China-Africa cooperation

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African leaders at the FOCA meeting in 2018

Chato, Tanzania | XINHUA |  The 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has achieved great success and become a new monument to China-Africa friendly cooperation, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday.

Wang made the remarks at a joint press conference here with Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Palamagamba Kabudi during his official visit to the African country.

Wang noted that over the past two years, China has fully implemented the eight major initiatives with African countries proposed at the Beijing Summit.

Cooperation in areas of industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, health care, people-to-people exchange, and peace and security have been carried out in a comprehensive way, he said, adding that the overall implementation rate has exceeded 70 percent.

Noting that China-Africa cooperation on the “Belt and Road” is progressing smoothly, Wang said over 1,100 cooperation projects continue to operate during the epidemic.

Meanwhile, nearly 100,000 Chinese technical and engineering personnel also stick to their posts to coordinate and promote epidemic prevention and control as well as resume work and production, making important contributions to local economic and social development.

The friendship between Chinese and African people has continued to grow and the two sides have established 11 pairs of new sister cities, bringing the total number to 150, said Wang,

Furthermore, the China-Africa Institute has been inaugurated, a number of Confucius Institutes have been set up in Africa and exchanges in sectors of sports, health, tourism and youths between the two sides have yielded fruitful results, Wang added.

Wang noted that despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will not stop China and Africa from moving forward together. The two sides are scheduled to hold a new session of the FOCAC in Senegal later this year.

“China is ready to enhance communication with our African friends and we will carefully design the outcomes of the meeting and upgrade China-Africa cooperation based on the new situation, new needs and new opportunities of China-Africa cooperation,” said Wang.

A seven-point plan for upgrading of China-Africa cooperation is also proposed by Wang.

  • –China will strengthen health cooperation, work together with Africa to completely defeat the epidemic, help Africa enhance its capacity to prevent and respond to major diseases, and jointly build a “Healthy Africa”.
  • –China will enhance production capacity cooperation and upgrade China-Africa project cooperation to a more clustered, large-scale, industrialized and localized scale. China will help Africa raise its capacity for independent production and jointly build a “Made in Africa”.
  • –China will strengthen regional connectivity, explore China-Africa free trade cooperation, and help Africa enhance internal infrastructure connectivity, unimpeached trade and financial integration so as to jointly build an “Inter-connected Africa”.
  • –China will strengthen agricultural cooperation, carry out cooperation in grain production, storage and transportation, help Africa strengthen its food security and guarantee capability to jointly build a “Harvest Africa”.
  • –China will strengthen digital cooperation, give full play to China’s technological advantages, help Africa seize the opportunity of the information revolution and jointly build a “Digital Africa”.
  • –China will carry out environmental protection cooperation, practice the concept of sustainable development, help Africa improve its ability to cope with climate change and jointly build a “Green Africa”.
  • –China will strengthen military security cooperation, promote political solutions of critical issues in Africa, help Africa enhance its peacekeeping and anti-terrorism capabilities, and jointly build a “Safe Africa”.

Wang also expressed confidence that with the joint efforts of both sides and under the guidance of the forum mechanism, China-Africa cooperation will continue to bear fruits and make greater contribution to the building of a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.

****

XINHUA

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Human Rights Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo is out on bail…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Kampala – Uganda Human Rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo has been granted bail pending trial in regard to accusations of money laundering.

Justice Jane Okuo of the Anti-corruption Court has on December, 30th, 2020 ordered for the release of Mr. Opiyo on bail but ordered him to deposit cash of Shs15m in the bank.

The court also ordered Mr. Opiyo to deposit his passport in court to restrict his movements out of the country and each of the four sureties were bonded at Shs100m, not cash.

Justice Okuo ruled that Mr. Opiyo has a legal right to bail based on the presumption of innocence.

His lawyers, David Mpanga, Robert Mackay, and Elison Karuhanga argued that Mr. Opiyo is a lawyer in courts of law, a human rights international award winner with substantial sureties.

They said that Mr. Opiyo knows his obligations to bail.

Mr. Opiyo appeared before the High Court judge by way of a video conference at Buganda Road, hardly a week after a lower court remanded him until January 11, next year.

Mr. Opiyo, the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda was arrested last week from a city restaurant and detained at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka. He was charged with money laundering, a charge that can only be heard by the High Court judge.

Mr. Opiyo was abducted alongside two members of Witness Radio – Uganda legal team Esomu Simon Peter Obure and Anthony Odur. Others were Herbert Dakasi and Hamid Tenywa who were later granted a police bond on December, 24th, 2020.

The prosecution alleges that Mr. Opiyo on October 8, 2020, at ABSA Bank Garden City Branch, in Kampala District acquired $340,000 (about Shs1.2 billion) through ABSA Bank account No.6004078045 in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, knowing at the time of receipt that the said funds were proceeds of crime.

Opiyo is the lawyer representing two NGOs including the Uganda National NGO Forum and Uganda Women’s Network whose accounts were recently frozen by the Financial Intelligence Authority over alleged involvement in moving money to finance terrorism activities.

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Human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo denied bail, remanded again…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Buganda Road court on Monday remanded human rights lawyer Mr. Nicholas Opiyo to Kitalya prison till January 11, 2021.
Opiyo was arrested last week on Tuesday and detained at Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka. He was charged with money laundering.
Mr. Opiyo on Monday appeared before Buganda Road Chief Magistrates court through video conferencing where the case was read to him.

The Chief Magistrate, Mr. Moses Mabende however denied him bail arguing that he has no jurisdiction to hear his case.

The magistrate said the charges against Opiyo who is the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, can only be heard by the High Court.

He sent him back to Kitalya prison till January 11, 2021, to come for mentioning of the case.

“The accused can apply for bail in the High Court on Wednesday because the case is before Justice Jane Kajuba at the anti-corruption high court,” the Magistrate said.

The other four suspects, who included lawyers Herbert Dakasi, Esomu Obure, Anthony Odur, and Human Rights officer, Hamid Tenywa were given police bonds last Thursday.

The prosecution alleges that Mr. Opiyo on October 8, 2020, at ABSA Bank Garden City Branch, in Kampala District acquired $340,000 (about Shs1.2 billion) through ABSA Bank account No.6004078045 in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, knowing at the time of receipt that the said funds were proceeds of crime.

Opiyo is the lawyer representing two NGOs including the Uganda National NGO Forum and the Uganda Women’s Network whose accounts were recently frozen by the Financial Intelligence Authority over alleged involvement in moving money to finance terrorism activities.

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