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Chapter: 

II. Surveillance policy

Communications surveillance

In 2007, the government introduced the Regulation of Interception of Communication Bill 2007. This bill would legalize the "interception and monitoring of certain communications in the course of their transmission through telecommunication, postal or any other related service or system in Uganda."1 The bill mandates the establishment of a communications monitoring center, to be operated by the Minister of Security in order to combat terrorism. Members of Parliament will decide the category of people whose phones will be tapped. Opponents question the constitutionality of the bill, but believe it will become law since the ruling party also controls the legislature.2 The Uganda ruling party readily admits to illegally tapping the phones of the opposing political parties.3

The Suppression of Terrorism Act permits an authorized officer to intercept the communications of a person and otherwise conduct surveillance of that person.4 The Act allows interception of letters and postal packages, telephone calls, fax messages, e-mails, and bank records, and allows rigorous security checks and surveillance of persons or premises. According to the government-owned daily newspaper, the President of Uganda stated that communication between opposition politicians and members of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)5 have been monitored.6 This surveillance comes in the wake of the 1998 bombings of the United States embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, and the continued instability in Northern Uganda.

The government has also begun to issue new passports equipped with biometric technology in order to control immigration into the country.7 In addition, in 2006 the government awarded a contract to issue computerized driving permits and licenses. The new licenses may include smart card or biometric technology.8

Footnotes

  • 1. "Uganda; Phone-Tapping To Be Legalized," The Monitor, May 30, 2007.
  • 2. Id.
  • 3. Id.
  • 4. The Suppression of Terrorism Act No. 14 of 2002.
  • 5. The Lord‚Äôs Resistance Army and Movement are listed as terrorist groups under the Schedule to the Suppression of Terrorism Act. No. 14 of 2002.
  • 6. New Vision Reporter, "Museveni Warns MPs ‚Äì MPs who Communicate with LRA Will Be Hanged'," New Vision, Vol. 18, No. 217, September 10, 2003, at 1.
  • 7. "Immigration Department to be Strengthened," The Monitor, Jun. 13, 2007.
  • 8. "Driving Permits Take Up Digital Trend," The Monitor, Aug. 1, 2006.