Israel to install spy systems at Uganda borders

There are reports that the government is stepping up surveillance of dissidents. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI

What you need to know:

  • Others in attendance at the signing ceremony included the Deputy CDF,  Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, Chief of Military Intelligence Maj Gen James Birungi, Deputy Commander of Land Forces, Maj Gen Sam Okiding, among others.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defence cooperation signed on September 19 between Uganda’s Ministry of Defence and the Israel Ministry of Defence includes a component on border management system security, Sunday Monitor has learnt.

Ms Rosemary Byengoma, the Ministry of Defence’s Permanent Secretary, and Mr Asaf Dvir, the head of the International Defence Cooperation Directorate (SIBAT) of the Israel Ministry of Defence, signed the MoU at the military headquarters in Mbuya.

SIBAT is the arm of the Israeli military charged with, among others government-to-government agreements, identifying business opportunities, and finding technological solutions for specific operational requirements.

Others in attendance at the signing ceremony included the Deputy CDF,  Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, Chief of Military Intelligence Maj Gen James Birungi, Deputy Commander of Land Forces, Maj Gen Sam Okiding, among others.

A terse press release issued by the Ministry of Defence said no more than capture Ms Byengoma laud Tel Aviv for especially military cooperation with the Kampala regime.

“Israel has helped us to strengthen our different branches of the military, especially in the air force and air defence. Your invariable expertise and support have, to a greater extent, made our air space safer, and for this, we are grateful,” Ms Byengoma said.

Likewise, Mr Dvir conveyed greetings and appreciation for the cooperation between the two governments.

Under the component on border security, highly placed diplomatic sources intimated to this newspaper that the Israeli military will upgrade and install control systems at all of Uganda’s border points. Sources cited systems such as surveillance spyware.

Border management systems are a key control mechanism for overall migration management, especially in monitoring arrivals and departures and curbing smuggling, especially as border security has increasingly become one of the most pressing issues for security agencies around the world.

While tightened border security is integral to national security, the choice of Israeli military technology raises eyebrows coming as it does against the backdrop of Tel Aviv continually supplying military grade spyware to the Ugandan government.

It was revealed in August that the Israeli cyber company, Cellebrite, sold the technology for hacking into cell phones to the Uganda Police.

Cellebrite, which specialises in developing tools for digital forensic investigations, has not denied the sale but claims it is scrupulous about legal and ethical use of its products, according to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper that first reported the story.

Uganda and Israel enjoy warm bilateral relations, but cooperate mainly on the defence and security front—arms purchases and the Israel Defence Forces training Uganda’s military. Neither country has an embassy in each other’s territory, but leaders of both countries have tossed around the idea for a while.

Following the signing of the MoU in September, Ms Byengoma called for loyalty and commitment to the new deal. She indicated that this will fasten government transactions in many areas of mutual interest.

“I believe this product will facilitate smooth engagements between the two parties,” she added.

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