Gov\'t Negotiated For Exim Bank Loan To Buy Phone Tapping Equipment

As part of the many deliverables that the committee had, was to pass the Regulation of Interception of Communications act, a law that provides for phone tapping.
03 Aug 2015 18:16
Four ministries were involved in closed door negotiations with President Yoweri Museveni to secure a loan from Exim Bank to purchase phone tapping equipment, a confidential report from government has revealed.

They include the Ministry of Security, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology. The ministries were working under an umbrella of a Joint Security and ICT technical committee and reporting directly to the President for five years dating back to 2010.

The document titled ‘Public Safety Network Project\' details a plan by the four ministries to purchase equipment and software that would enable them ‘enhance vigilance\' and tap private communications to avert ‘terror attacks and violent demonstrations\'. 

As part of the many deliverables that the committee had, was to pass the  Regulation of Interception of Communications act, a law that provides for phone tapping.  The act was passed in 2010.   

The document, a copy of which URN obtained through a confidential source indicates that the committee of ministries met with the President and presented to him a document in February 2013 calling for the increase in the surveillance infrastructure of the country. 

As part of this surveillance improvement, part of the suggestions included the expansion of the TETRA communication on which radio call information is transmitted to reach all key highways from a central control node in Kampala.

The area to be covered by this would be 160 kilometers.  The second part of the project was on the monitoring of gadgets and devices and the committee, on subsequent reports to the President stated that they had made a shortlist of companies to buy from.

One of these companies, Nice Systems, which is mentioned in the leaked wikileaks emails as having a client in the names of the Office of the President Uganda and The Uganda Police. In that meeting, the team also told the President that they had talked ‘informally\' with the EXIM bank  of China which had agreed to fund the project to the tune of 5 billion Shillings.

The documents show a close network of security officials and politicians that were working to pass the interception of communication act through parliament, purchase surveillance software. 

Upon completion of the purchase, the Ugandan government would be in position to tap phone calls, install computer programs unnoticed, activate microphones on phones to listen to all conversations held around the phone even without a phone call and also know each key a person of interest is typing on their computers or phones.

The equipment would allow the government to do more surveillance than the act gives them power too.  Security Minister Mary Karoro Okurut couldn\'t be reached for a comment on the report as she was reportedly out of town on official duty. 

Major Shaban Bantariza, the Deputy Director of the government owned media center told URN that the country has been buying surveillance equipment for a long time even before the law on interception of communication was passed. According to Bantariza, the move was aimed at keeping citizens safe.