The Uganda Police Force (UPF) has denied allegations by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that it used Huawei technology to spy on Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine of the People Power pressure group, arguing that WSJ and Daily Monitor should adduce evidence to confirm allegations.
“We strongly reject a malicious story that was published by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), claiming the Uganda Police Force used its technology for spying and surveilling opposition figures…,” the Force’s spokesperson, CP Fred Enanga, said in a statement released on Tuesday.
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Enanga said UPF has an existing contract with Huawei to install CCTV cameras country wide as a measure to strengthen law and order. “Their contract including both the hardware and software were thoroughly evaluated, and there were no short comings in the engineering and policing processes. The first phase of the installation of CCTV cameras within the KMP areas is in advanced stages with 85% completion,” he said.
He said the Force’s relationship with Huawei is purely business and does not prohibit the Force from purchasing or using their telecommunications and surveillance products in addressing crime and safety in our country. He said the cameras are already transforming modern day policing in Uganda, with facial recognition and artificial intelligence as part of policing and security. “They are also helping us to be more accountable through increased visibility and better response mechanisms,” he said.
We continue to take our policing responsibilities very seriously and do utilise a range of operational, investigative and intelligence tools in our everyday activities, but not for spying purposes as alleged, Enanga said. “Take note also that where it requires information about users, we use existing laws and procedure to seek such information from service providers,” he said.
He said the CCTVS are becoming a wide spread feature in Ugandan life, where citizens are more secure and conscious in public spaces with CCTVs. It’s therefore, protecting the public from criminals, he said.
“The other innovations include; DNA, Fingerprinting of guns, digitalising of Registration number plates…” he said.
He said the Article by the WSJ that was intended to sabotage and smear the UPF, and give political mileage to ‘a particular member of the opposition’ and other interests. “We wonder why they would single out one leader, yet there are many other players in the political arena of Uganda including other politicians, activists, Members of Parliament, Journalists, to mention a few,” Enanga said.
“We do petition both the WSJ and Daily Monitor to release information that the anti-crime infrastructure we are installing has been secretly used to extract personal information from private cell phones. We have seen the same accusations fronted against many other countries and institutions, using the Huawei intelligent monitoring systems. We believe its pure sabotage and a trade war strategy against Huawei and its clients.”
The Article will not put any pressure on the UPF, and we will continue to observe our Memorandum of Understanding with Huawei, and not help promote propaganda wars in the fight for the export of automated technology for policing, he said.
Huawei executives and Chinese Embassy in Uganda have refuted the claims by WSJ.