Informer East Africa accepts donations to continue delivering daily news to you.

Donation Amount. Min £2

 

There is nothing glamorous about being a YouTuber in Rwanda, says John Williams Ntwali, whose channel Pax TV is a year old. The pay is poor, the threats frequent and the risk of prison all too real.

Ntwali has been arrested multiple times during his two-decade career as a journalist, but now fears that even YouTube, which had established itself as a rare outlet for critical reporting in Rwanda, is losing ground to an authoritarian government.

"We are leaning towards the closure of YouTube channels, not by shutting down YouTube or the internet but by imprisoning those who work on YouTube," he told AFP in an interview.

YouTubers who discuss beauty, sports or shopping have little to worry about, but those who focus on politics and current affairs are in an increasingly precarious position, he said.

"It's getting more restrictive."

Unlike many YouTubers around the world, the 40-something is careful not to share any personal information about himself or his family, for safety reasons.

In fact, he rarely appears on Pax TV, which has secured 1.5 million views and is nicknamed the "voice of the voiceless" for its interviews with critics and dissenters in the national Kinyarwanda language.

The channel, which has 15,000 subscribers, features interviews with figures such as Adeline Rwigara, who accused the government of harassment. She previously accused the authorities of killing her husband Assinapol Rwigara, a high-profile industrialist who fell out with the ruling party and died in a car accident.

The channel also interviewed the Belgian lawyer of Paul Rusesabagina, the "Hotel Rwanda" hero turned outspoken government critic who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in September in what global rights groups branded an unfair trial.

"We want to talk to every citizen, we do investigative journalism, but we do it to advocate for human rights," Ntwali said.

Several of his former compatriots are in jail while other YouTubers are increasingly afraid to broach controversial subjects.

Still, Ntwali is unbowed.

"It's passion. It's dedication. We live hoping that one day it can improve."

'Taken by Surprise'

President Paul Kagame has ruled Rwanda with an iron fist for nearly three decades, ever since his rebel army stopped the 1994 genocide which left some 800,000 mainly ethnic Tutsi dead.

While Kagame has won praise for bringing stability and economic growth to Rwanda, he has also come under fire for cracking down on political freedoms.

The country is ranked 156th out of 180 countries for press freedom by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

As media censorship has grown, forcing independent outlets to shut down, YouTube has stepped into the vacuum, its popularity receiving an unexpected boost when COVID-19 lockdowns left Kigali residents housebound.

Once a video is uploaded, it has a long life, often shared several times before anyone attempts to have it removed.

Furthermore, Kagame's government cannot go after the Google-owned platform without risking the wrath of the Silicon Valley giant, which could block access to its other services in Rwanda, dealing a blow to the economy, Ntwali said.

'Candidate for prison'

Nevertheless, in recent weeks, speculation has mounted that the government is in discussions with Google about shutting down a number of YouTube channels.

Neither Google nor the Rwandan authorities responded to AFP's requests for comment on the reports, which follow a string of arrests of prominent YouTubers in recent months.

In November, star YouTuber Dieudonne Niyonsenga, better known by his online persona Cyuma ("Iron"), was sentenced to seven years in jail after being found guilty of forgery and impersonation.

Weeks earlier, Yvonne Idamange, a mother of four with a large online following, was jailed for 15 years for inciting violence online.

Aimable Karasira, a university lecturer with a YouTube channel, was arrested in June and charged with genocide denial, a serious crime in Rwanda.

The Rwanda Investigation Bureau in October urged citizens to be wary of social media commentators seeking to "undermine national security," warning of arrests.

According to Human Rights Watch, "Rwandan law allows for overly broad and vague limitations on free speech" which pave the way for the "abusive prosecution" of YouTubers and other government critics.

In just a year, many of Rwanda's top YouTubers have been silenced, and while Ntwali says he is careful not to publish anything that is "in contradiction with the law", he knows his days online are numbered.

"It is inevitable," he said.

"When you are an independent journalist, in the truest sense of the term, you are a candidate for prison." - Agence France-Presse/Voice of America

Tanzanian President Samia Hassan and Egypt s Housing Minister Assem El-Gazzar inaugurates Elsewedy Industrial Complex in Tanzania. Press photo

 

Tanzanian President Samia Hassan inaugurated the first phase of Egypt’s Elsewedy Industrial Complex in Tanzania, which includes investments totalling $35 million, Elsewedy Electric said in a statement on Monday.

The president, accompanied with Egyptian and Tanzanian key officials, also laid the foundation stone of the Egyptian Industrial City (EIC) in the Kigamboni district of Dar Es Salaam.

Built on 120,100 square metres, the Elsewedy Industrial Complex comprises several manufacturing facilities specialising in cables, wires, transformers, PVCs, and metres, along with logistics centre built on a 4,800 square-metre-area, the company said.

The complex will also produce the solutions and equipment necessary for the 2025 Industrialisation Strategy of Tanzania and will create more than 500 jobs for talented youths and technical engineers in the first phase alone.

The complex includes a technical training academy to provide innovative technical education and vocational training programmes with international standards to train and provide skills to aspiring employees and feed the growing labour market in the developing nation.

Egypt’s Minister of Housing Assem El-Gazzar, Egyptian Ambassador to Cairo Mohamed Abu El-Wafa, CEO of the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, and CEO of Elsewedy Electric Ahmed El-Sewedy, along with 50 Egyptian businessmen and investors attended the inauguration ceremony.

The EIC is a 2.2 million-square-metre industrial park that aims to attract more than $400 million worth of investments from over 100 investors across the region, the company said.

Developed by Elsewedy Electric’s subsidiary, Elsewedy Industrial Development, the company is expected to accommodate labour-intensive industries. This includes chemical, engineering, and mining operations.

During the ceremony, El-Sewedy said the inauguration comes as part of the company’s mission to expand in Africa, which started 20 years ago.

“Over this time, Tanzania has remained an important priority in our strategy, which materialised in 2018,” El-Sewedy said.

He hailed Tanzania’s “favourable investment climate and its government’s support to industries,” saying this has enabled the company to use the new complex as a manufacturing and export hub at the heart of east and south Africa.

“Tanzania is suitably located, bordering eight countries, six of which are nearly or completely land-locked, which makes Tanzania well-positioned to become a regional economic and transit hub,” he added.

Egypt has been engaged in numerous developmental projects in a number of African countries, most notably the Julius Nyerere Hydroelectric Power Project in Tanzania.

In August, the Egyptian consortium undertaking the project, including the Arab Contractors Company and Elsewedy Electric, began installing its first turbine.

Once it is complete, the dam will generate 2,115 mw of clean power to more than 60 million Tanzanians and control the Rufiji River’s water flow in the flood season. - Ahram Online

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (right) and Uganda’s First Lady Janet Museveni (2nd from right) pose for photo with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu at the State House in Entebbe, Uganda, on February 3, 2020. Photo Sumy Sadurni/AFP

 

Israeli spyware firm NSO Group’s software was reportedly used by an unknown assailant to hack the cell phones of at least nine United States State Department employees, in what — if confirmed — would be the first time the embattled company’s technology was used to target American officials.

The hack targeted State Department workers in Uganda or those specializing in the East African country, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday.

All of the American staff targeted were using iPhones. Last week, Apple announced that it was suing the NSO Group for targeting the users of its devices, saying the firm at the center of the Pegasus surveillance scandal needs to be held accountable.

The suit from the Silicon Valley giant adds new trouble for NSO, which was engulfed in controversy over reports that tens of thousands of activists, journalists and politicians were listed as potential targets of its Pegasus spyware.

While the phone numbers of US officials were included on a long list of potential targets revealed in a series of media reports earlier this year, it was never confirmed whether those phones were actually hacked.

NSO Group says its hacking software cannot work on phones that begin with the US +1 country code. However, the allegedly hacked State Department employees were using local phones in Uganda, Reuters said.

Responding to the report, which did not identify who had ordered the alleged hacking, NSO Group said it did not have any indication that its software was used in such a hack, but canceled the relevant accounts and pledged to investigate the matter.

“If our investigation shall show these actions indeed happened with NSO’s tools, such customer will be terminated permanently and legal actions will take place,” said an NSO spokesperson, who added that NSO will also “cooperate with any relevant government authority and present the full information we will have,” the firm said in a statement.

Asked for comment, the State Department only pointed to the recent decision by the Commerce Department to blacklist the Israeli company, making it harder for US firms to do business with it.

“We have been acutely concerned that commercial spyware like NSO Group software poses a serious counterintelligence and security risk to US personnel,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing later on Friday.

Both the Ugandan Embassy and Apple declined Reuters’ request for comment.

Noting “systemic abuse” in multiple countries by the Israeli firm, a senior Biden administration official speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that such hacking was the reason that the US decided to crack down on groups like NSO.

The Israeli embassy in Washington said in a statement that the targeting of US officials would be a serious breach of its rules. The Defense Ministry must authorize the sale of spyware firms’ products abroad.

“Cyber products like the one mentioned are supervised and licensed to be exported to governments only for purposes related to counter-terrorism and severe crimes,” a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy said. “The licensing provisions are very clear and if these claims are true, it is a severe violation of these provisions.”

Israel’s ties with Uganda expanded dramatically in recent years, particularly under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who was considered close to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

Netanyahu visited Uganda in 2020 where Museveni mediated between Israel and Sudan.

The US has been critical of human rights abuses in Uganda.

NSO Group has faced a torrent of international criticism over allegations it helps governments spy on dissidents and rights activists. NSO insists its product is meant only to assist countries in fighting crime and terrorism.

Marketed to governments for use solely against terrorists and criminals, Pegasus gives operators the ability to effectively take full control of a target’s phone, download all data from the device, or activate its camera or microphone without the user knowing.

The software has allegedly been abused by NSO customers to spy on human rights activists, journalists and politicians from Saudi Arabia to Mexico, including such high-profile targets as the fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist murdered in his country’s consulate in Istanbul.

NSO Group was asked by The Associated Press prior to Friday’s news whether it could survive as long as it is on the Commerce Department’s entity list. While not directly responding, it said it was “working on all appropriate channels to reverse the Department of Commerce’s decision.” - THE TIMES OF ISRAEL AP contributed to this report

About IEA Media Ltd

Informer East Africa is a UK based diaspora Newspaper. It is a unique platform connecting East Africans at home and abroad through news dissemination. It is a forum to learn together, grow together and get entertained at the same time.

To advertise events or products, get in touch by info [at] informereastafrica [dot] com or call +447957636854.
If you have an issue or a story, get in touch with the editor through editor[at] informereastafrica [dot] com or call +447886544135.

We also accept donations from our supporters. Please click on "donate". Your donations will go along way in supporting the newspaper.

Get in touch

Our Offices

London, UK
+44 7886 544135
editor (@) informereastafrica.com
Slough, UK
+44 7957 636854
info (@) informereastafrica.com

Latest News

Wavinya Ndeti urges Senators to shoot down proposed Housing Levy Tax

Wavinya Ndeti urges...

Machakos Governor, Wavinya Ndeti, has urged Senators to shoot down the proposed Housing Levy tax whe...

AU Panel pledges inclusive approach for peace in Sudan

AU Panel pledges inc...

The newly established AU High-Level Panel on Sudan declared its commitment to achieving sustainable...

Pastor organising Benny Hinn crusade at Nyayo Stadium striped naked & robbed cash

Pastor organising Be...

Pastors praying for the Nyayo Stadium ahead of the Benny Hinn crusade set for Saturday, February 24...

South Sudan sends third batch of teachers to China for training

South Sudan sends th...

JUBA, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan said Friday it would send the third batch of teachers and sch...

For Advertisement

Big Reach

Informer East Africa is one platform for all people. It is a platform where you find so many professionals under one umbrella serving the African communities together.

Very Flexible

We exist to inform you, hear from you and connect you with what is happening around you. We do this professionally and timely as we endeavour to capture all that you should never miss. Informer East Africa is simply news for right now and the future.

Quality News

We only bring to you news that is verified, checked and follows strict journalistic guidelines and standards. We believe in 1. Objective coverage, 2. Impartiality and 3. Fair play.

Banner & Video Ads

A banner & video advertisement from our sponsors will show up every once in a while. It keeps us and our writers coffee replenished.