It is now less than a year before Ugandans go to the polls. But questions are already being asked about how free and fair they will be.
But serious questions are being asked about the role of high-tech firms in influencing the election.
The questions centre on a technology called Pegasus. This is what the Financial Times had to say about the technology.
It’s built Israel, an all-seeing spyware so powerful that the Israeli government classifies it as a weapon. Developed and sold by the Herzlia-based NSO Group, which is part-owned by a UK-based private equity group called Novalpina Capital, Pegasus was designed to worm its way into phones.
Since 2012, NSO has devised various ways to deliver Pegasus to targeted phones — sometimes as a malicious link in a text message, or a redirected website that infected the device. But by May this year, the FT reported, NSO had developed a new method by weaponising a vulnerability in WhatsApp, used by 1.5bn people globally, to deliver Pegasus completely surreptitiously. The user did not even have to answer the phone but once delivered, the software instantly used flaws in the device’s operating system to turn it into a secret eavesdropping tool.
Israeli IT experts are now reportedly in Kampala to supply President Yoweri Museveni with data for his election campaign.
Meanwhile, Inon Kanner and Roy Zeevis, two experts in IT systems with ties to the Israeli defence and security firm Elbit Systems, which specialises in cyber-intelligence, have also pitched up in the city.
They have reportedly teamed up with their Kenyan peers to oversee a data analysis project on behalf of the political strategists of the NRM and to develop a digital campaigning tool for Museveni’s team.
So will the 2021 be held on a level playing-field? It looks increasingly unlikely.