Nsereko’s cyber law; will need a booster jab

Author: Nicholas Sengoba. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

What you need to know:

The false news and ridiculous assertions only intensify and become even harder to contain

If anyone is desirous of understanding the quest to have a law on ‘cyber bullying’, one has to interest themselves in the 19th Century history. Specifically, colonial history that led to the formation of the state, as fashioned in the manner it exists today.

When the colonialist came to Africa purportedly to civilise, Christianise and commercialise, they left out two important ‘Cs’. The real motive. To commit crime.

It was a hunting expedition for self aggrandizement. When one sets out to hunt animals in the wild, they don’t educate, chrisitanise or trade with them. They simply create conditions that make it easy to corner the animals, kill and eat them. So the animals are constantly on the run to survive and when they fight back, the hunter has his animal traps and guns to put them out of action.

When the colonialists set up the state it was to make institutions that would make it as easy as possible to steal from the African who was sleeping on vast resources. First, they found thriving independent kingdoms like Bunyoro and Buganda, put them together to form ‘republics’ for ease of administration. Basically to make it easy to commit the crime against humanity, dubiously veiled in philanthropy.

Then they set up the executive headed by a fountain of honour, that would give the orders which orders were to mainly perpetuate the criminal project.

Of course like any criminal mind, the architects of the colonial state knew it that the people would at some point defend themselves and resist the project.

So they added the legislature. This one would form laws to provide legal shelter for the repugnant orders and sinister intentions of the executive.

For instance if a President decided to pad all public offices with their relatives and people became uneasy, a law was quickly passed against ‘sectarianism’ to scare people from querying his move. Kampala MP Hajj Mohammad Nsereko, the one drafting the cyber bullying Bill, is ensconced in this relm.

Lastly the Judiciary, which was essentially a glorified circus meant to publicly demonstrate justice in motion, was put in place. Look at the courts in Apartheid South Africa and you will get it. In the background were the instruments of coercion namely the police, to ensure that law (however repugnant) was observed to the hilt to ensure ‘order’. Order here defines a peaceful environment for those who lord it over the people to enjoy the fruits of the criminal project with minimum disruption.

Following closely behind the police was the army whose duty was to protect the Constitution even if that Constitution was detrimental to the citizens of the country. In reality they protected the ruling class from the people by crushing them in case they objected to misrule.

When countries like Uganda became independent in the 1960s, they simply went ahead with this project that pitted the State against the people. The State is continuously doing everything to keep the people in a state that they can easily steal from them in order to rule them. The people on the other hand are using everything within their means to fight back. Now after many years of brutality and impoverishment, we have reached a stage where the people have found that it is difficult to take on the ruling class violently. So they have found an avenue on social media.

Remember that before the advent of social media we had traditional media. The newspaper editor stood between the people and the recipients and subjects of their grievances.

The State had it relatively easy as they could simply ban newspapers, close down media houses and lock up the editors for sedition, defamation or publishing false news or news likely to hamper the security of the country especially when they reported the ill health of the President. It promoted the culture of (self) censorship.

Now with social media you are operating virtually and can have yourself heard uncensored, in real time, anytime. It is a very new area and the State has found itself groping in the dark. 

The State cannot win this one easily and they know it. But the worst thing a politician can do is to do nothing. This law if passed will simply get one or two people and use them as an example to teach others a lesson just like all the other laws (sedition, false news, etc) have done in the past. This is nothing new. The State is constantly endeavouring to immunise itself against the resistance of the people to its abuse, by drafting all manner of obnoxious laws and regulations. So in effect the Nsereko cyber bullying law is just a booster jab as a response to a new front, opened by the people against President Museveni’s dictatorial tendencies. The resistance has mutated and spreads much faster and is more effective because of the proliferation of the internet and communication technology.

Like the Covid-19 vaccines, having this law in place does not mean that the state and government will be saved from the resistance of the people. It will just attempt to make it mild and concealed.

And that is where you pity the Nserekos of this world. These sort of moves simply drive people underground and make them angrier. The false news and ridiculous assertions only intensify and become even harder to contain. The people resort to more unorthodox ways of ensuring that they are heard.

When the NRM government increased its clampdown on the media in the run-up to the General Election in 2006, it popularised a news website, Radio Katwe, hosted by Brinkster Communications in the US. At one time the site crushed because of the number of the overwhelming number of people visiting. The government ordered the local internet providers to block it. That is when we were introduced to ‘proxy servers,’ and continued reading Katwe. When the government banned and taxed social media apps to curb usage because of attacks it suffered there, we learnt about the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and stayed put on social media. You have to feel for Nsereko. Innovation will overtake his law that it may need a booster jab soon because the State as a criminal enterprise will continue finding resistance from the people it intends to subjugate.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues

Twitter: @nsengoba