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PML Daily Weekly News Round-up: Chinese telecom Huawei in spy-gate allegations, Byanyima quits Oxfam; Balunywa leads race for BoU Governor job; Lord Mayor recovers his powers in new KCCA law; President flags off netball team

Bobi Wine outside court addressing journalists. Huawei Technologies is on spot for spying on the presidential hopeful. (PHOTO/Rachel Agaba)

KAMPALA – Huawei Technologies Co., a Chinese telecommunications company, helped Ugandan senior security officials to hack into the phone of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, a report has revealed.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Huawei employees provided Ugandan security officers with software that helped access Bobi Wine’s WhatsApp chat group, named Firebase crew.

The incident is said to have taken place last year after Bobi Wine returned from the US where he had gone for treatment after the violence preceding the Arua Municipality by-elections.

The security agencies, scared about Bobi Wine after he received backing from the US government, are said to have embarked on spying on the artiste-cum politician to understand his motives.

The Wall Street Journal adds that a group of six intelligence officers were given strict orders to intercept Bobi Wine encrypted communications such as WhatsApp and Skype. The police is said to have used the broad powers of a 2010 law that gives the government the ability “to secure its multidimensional interests.”

The Wall Street Journal adds that the security the team, based on the third floor of the capital’s police headquarters, spent days trying to penetrate Mr. Wine’s WhatsApp and Skype communications using spyware, but failed. Then they asked for help from the staff working in their offices from Huawei, Uganda’s top digital supplier.

The Huawei technicians worked for two days and helped us puncture through,” one senior officer at the surveillance unit is quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.

The Huawei engineers, used the spyware to penetrate Mr. Wine’s WhatsApp chat group, named Firebase crew, which helped police to scupper his plans to organize street rallies. Bobi Wine was later arrested for holding a protest against social media tax.

However, Huawei denied the allegations, with the company spokesman, saying they have “never been engaged in ‘hacking’ activities”. “Huawei rejects completely these unfounded and inaccurate allegations against our business operations. Our internal investigation shows clearly that Huawei and its employees have not been engaged in any of the activities alleged. We have neither the contracts, nor the capabilities, to do so,” the statement reads.

However, the Wall Street Journal adds that technicians from the Chinese powerhouse have in other cases personally helped African governments spy on their political opponents.

In Zambia, according to senior security officials, Huawei technicians helped the government access the phones and Facebook pages of a team of opposition bloggers running a pro-opposition news site, which had repeatedly criticized President Edgar Lungu. The senior security officials identified by name two Huawei experts based in a cyber-surveillance unit in the offices of Zambia’s telecom regulator who pinpointed the bloggers’ locations and were in constant contact with police units deployed to arrest them in the northwestern city of Solwezi.

The ruling Patriotic Front posted on its Facebook page in April that police officers working with “Chinese experts at Huawei have managed to track” and arrest the bloggers. The party’s spokesman confirmed to the Journal that the case was handled by the Cybercrime Crack Squad, the unit at the telecom regulator.

Since 2012 the U.S. government has accused Huawei—the world’s largest maker of telecom equipment and the second-largest manufacturer of smartphones—of being a potential tool for the Chinese government to spy abroad, after decades of alleged corporate espionage by state-backed Chinese actors. Huawei has forcefully denied those charges.

Former Executive Director of Oxfam International, Winnie Byanyima, named ED UNAIDS.(PHOTO/Net)

Winnie Byanyima quits Oxfam, appointed UNAIDS Executive Director

KAMPALA/LONDON – Ms Winnie Byanyima has announced that she is leaving her post as Executive Director of Oxfam International, a British charity, to take over a similar role at UNAIDS.

In an emotional email to Oxfam staff on Wednesday, Ms Byanyima, who is wife of Uganda’s opposition lynchpin Dr Kizza Besigye, said despite enjoying her stay, she could not turn down the UNAIDS job given her passion for spearheading the fight against HIV/AIDS that has ravaged Africa for many years.

She also revealed that her own brother, one Bernard down of the disease.

“I have been encouraged by many activists from all over the world to lead the campaign against HIV/AIDS and I realized that I couldn’t turn down the opportunity… My own brother Bernard died of AIDS..,” Ms Byanyima added.

She added that while a confidentiality agreement bars her from making a public announcement on the appointment, she said she had to let her colleagues know before UNAIDS makes a formal announcement.

She also revealed that she would remain Oxfam Executive Director for some time before moving to her new role.

The UNAIDS job fell vacant after the executive director, Michel Sidibe, left the position in May, having served for 10 years.

Ms Byanyima had in June been shortlisted along top five others.

The list of names was sent to the UN Secretary-General who made the appointment.

Oxfam International has come under global criticism over allegations of sexual abuse of refugees by their aid staff.

Ms Byanyima will replace Gunilla Carlsson, who was appointed to the position in May, following the resignation of Sidibé. Sidibe is now health minister in Mali.

Ms Byanyima was born on January 13, 1959, in Mbarara, western Uganda. She attended Mount Saint Mary’s College Namagunga in Mukono District before pursuing a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Manchester.

Balunywa leads race for BoU Governor job

KAMPALA – President Museveni is considering the next leadership changes at Bank of Uganda with Makerere University Business School Principal Waswa Balunywa a leading candidate to take over from Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile, according to reliable government and State House sources.

Mr. Mutebile is not expected to serve beyond his current term, which ends in 2021 and according to sources, Prof. Balunywa, who has maintained a strong working connection with President Museveni all his public service life, is poised to replace him in changes that will shake up the Central Bank.

President Museveni is currently reportedly plotting a massive Cabinet reshuffle that is expected to come along with several changes in government.

According to sources, Prof. Balunywa, whom President Museveni praised before ordering First Lady and Education Minister Janat Museveni to extend his current term at MUBS in May 2018, had edged ahead of Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi, while current deputy Governor Dr. Louis Kasekende is rated a rank outsider in the race, following administrative and power intrigue currently engulfing the Central Bank, for which he is part of the set up.

Apart from the trio, President Museveni has before reportedly considered the current Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Internal Affairs Dr. Benon Mutambi and the National Social Security Fund Managing Director Richard Byarugaba for the job, but the two are also rated a ranking outsiders by sources close to the President. Dr. Mutambi, a former Chief Economist at the Central Bank is rated highly by the p[resident following his stellar performance as Chief Executive Officer of the Electricity Regulatory Authority, from where he was promoted to become PS.

Current Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile is expected to be retired when President Museveni makes the changes at BoU.

Government on Tuesday dismissed reports making rounds on WhatsApp platforms that President Museveni had already named Prof. Balunywa the new central Bank Governor.

Said Mr Opondo, the government spokesman:

“I don’t speculate on executive appointments by the President. BoU is a very public office, if someone is to appointed their names have to be forwarded to Parliament for approval”.

President Museveni’s Senior Press Secretary Mr. Don Wanyama told PML Daily: “We do not have any information to that effect”.

However, a reliable source intimated to this website “there is no smoke without fire”, maintaining that President Museveni was planning wholesale changes at BoU, following a recent parliamentary inquiry into the operations of the Central Bank.

NSSF Managing Director, Mr Richard Byarugaba. NSSF. (PHOTO/File)

NSSF MD Byarugaba clarifies on proposal to tax members’ savings

KAMPALA – The Managing Director of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Mr Richard Byarugaba, has moved to calm the storm arising out of a proposal by the government to tax NSSF savings.

The NSSF (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which was moved by Minister of State for Youth and Children Affairs Florence Nakiwala Florence for its first reading in Parliament on Tuesday, has been publicly criticized by NSSF members, with many questioning the changes in Section 38 of the Bill on tax.

But Mr Byarugaba, in a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, said the Fund welcomes and supports the Bill. He explained that under Uganda’s current tax regime on pensions and retirement benefits, a member’s contribution is taxed at the deduction of payroll, NSSF income is taxed when earned and the members’ Benefits are exempted from tax.

“So all member accrued benefits will have been taxed by the time they are paid,” Mr Byarugaba said.

However, he explained that when the NSSF Amendment Bill, 2019, becomes law, member contributions will not be taxed, and NSSF income earned will not be taxed.

“However member Benefits will be taxed at the point of withdrawal. Should a member attain the age of 60 years their Age Benefit will not be taxed. Other benefits that will not attract tax a. include the Invalidity and Survivors Benefits,” he said.

The NSSF MD added that under the new tax regime, a member will have more money compared to the current tax regime.

“The Government too will have earned more tax revenues under the new tax regime than it would have collected under the current one. In conclusion, the proposed amendments are progressive and address the concerns of the members and the country at large,” Mr Byarugaba said.

He also said NSSF welcomes the decision by government to retain NSSF as the Basic National Scheme, entrusted with management of mandatory social security contributions for the entire country.

According to Minister Nakiwala, the National Social Security Fund ( Amendment) Bill, 2019 aims to enable workers in the formal and informal sectors to make voluntary contributions to the National Social Security Fund and in addition, seeks to enhance the spectrum of benefits available to workers and to improve management of the National Social Security Fund.

According to Minister of Gender Labour and Social Development Janat Mukwaya, the current law was enacted in 1985 and does not adequately address emerging challenges in the management of social security in Uganda.

She states that the proposal to amend the NSSF Act particularly arises from the need to streamline the management of the Fund to expand the scope of social security coverage and benefits.

“The Act in its current state does not make express provision for the representation of workers, employers and other stakeholders on the board of directors. The appointment of the Managing Director and Deputy Managing Director by the Minister without the role of the board undermines the ability of the board to supervise them.”

The bill will go through a first, second and third reading in Parliament. The President will then have to assent, before it becomes law.

Kampala Lord Mayor Elias Lukwago (PHOTO/File)

Lord Mayor recovers his powers in new KCCA Amendment Bill passed by Parliament

KAMPALA – Parliament has on passed the KCCA Amendment Bill bringing an end to the protracted two-year debate between the lawmakers and the Executive.

This was after Parliament stayed the passing of the bill on Wednesday, after Benny Namugwanya, the State Minister for Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) failed to agree with the MPs on the creation of a department in the Ministry to be in charge of physical planning in districts of metropolitan Kampala which encompasses Kampala, Mukono, Wakiso and Mpigi districts.

Several MPs within the named districts protested the move saying they aren’t willing be work under the armpits of KCCA accusing the Authority of bullying other local governments with calls to have the physical planning placed under the Ministry of Land, a proposal Namugwanya protested.

However, in a twist of events on Thursday, August 15, Hon Namugwanya told Parliament that the Executive had since shifted its earlier position and they would now like the law to state that the ministry of Kampala in consultation with the ministry of lands and local government shall coordinate physical planning activities.

Among the proposals that raised a heated debate was Clause 3(2) of the Bill, which was passed by Parliament scrapping academic qualifications for those seeking to be councillors but retained Advanced Level qualifications for Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor.

Clause 6(a) of the Bill also created the position of speaker and deputy speaker Kampala Capital City Authority, a development that means that the Lord Mayor ceases to have powers to preside over KCCA Council sittings.

Legislators also rejected the proposal to change modus operandi for election of lord mayor from universal adult suffrage to an electoral college of councillors, warning the move would create anarchy in already politically porous Kampala.

President Museveni (white shirt) flagging off team Uganda for the FEASSSA games. (PHOTO/Courtesy)

President Museveni flags off team for FEASSSA games

ENTEBBE – The President of Uganda H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has on Tuesday, August 12th, flagged off the team that will represent the country at the 2019 Federation of East Africa Secondary Schools Sports Association (FEASSSA) games.

A total of 840 athletes were flagged off at a ceremony held at State House in Entebbe.

Uganda will participate in different sports disciplines that will take place from 15th to 25th of August.

Among the sports in which Uganda will participate in, include, football, handball, basketball, rugby, volleyball, netball, hockey, and basketball.

Uganda Cranes defender joins Saudi Arabian club

Unlike AFCON 2017, Ugandan players are reaping big from the just concluded edition in 2019.

The Cranes who reached the last 16 of the competition before bowing out to eventual finalist Senegal, are seeing a host of players land deals at different clubs.

Five of them, including Khalid Aucho, Abdu Lumala, Tadeo Lwanga, Timothy Awany and Allan Kyambadde have already moved to other sides.

Aucho, Lumala, Lwanga and Kyambadde joined different Egyptian clubs while Awany moved to Israel’s Ashdod FC.

The movement has continued on Monday, August 12, with Cranes captain Hassan Wasswa sealing a deal to join Al-lttihad Jeddah.

Wasswa who deputized Denis Onyango as the team’s vice-captain in Egypt, is believed to have secured a one-year contract that will run until August 1st 2020.

The energetic defender has been out of contract for a while ever since leaving Egyptian side Tala’ea El Gaish, towards the end of last year.

Proline FC coach Bisaso off to Sweden

LUGOGO – Proline FC had a 2018/19 season to remember.

Having been relegated from the top tier the season before, the Lugogo based won a league and cup double in their best ever season in their existence.

Under the guidance of Shafick Bisaso, they won the Big League and Uganda cup after finals’ victories over Wakiso Giants and Bright Stars respectively.

For the first time in history, Proline FC had stood out and indeed got to be counted.

With their maiden Uganda Cup triumph, they qualified to represent Uganda at the 2019/20 CAF Confederations Cup and at least feature in the qualification rounds before reaching the groups.

To get into the group stages, they have to negotiate past two two-legged rounds, one of which they have halfway gone past after a 3-0 home win against Malawi’s Master Securities last Saturday.

However, with the team on course of reaching the final round of qualification, it has been revealed that they will temporarily part ways with Bisaso.

Bisaso joined Proline last in 2018 after his contract with Express FC had been terminated by mutual consent.

According to a statement released by Proline on Wednesday evening, Bisaso who oversaw a Super 8 loss to URA FC on the same day, is set to further his coaching education in Sweden and will leave his duties with immediate effect.

 

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