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In the past few months, three seemingly independent events have happened in the three East Africa countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It started with Uganda, which made the pronouncement that come July this year, Ugandans would pay $0.027 (Sh7) every day to use social media. Right after Uganda’s incongruous pronouncement, Tanzanian authorities announced in April their plans to introduce a $930 fee for those wanting to have an online blog, and went ahead to institute Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2018.

Then in Kenya,President Uhuru Kenyatta, against good judgement, went ahead and signed the Bill into law the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Bill, 2018. These three similar events make for a very disconcerting pattern in East Africa, at a time when people are seeking to consolidate basic freedoms and rights that allow democracy to blossom.

Flimsy reasons

The reasons given by authorities in the three countries are not only flimsy, but also preposterous, similar to an event when President Museveni was caught on camera sleeping through a party meeting, only for party orderlies to issue a statement “clarifying” that the president was not dozing off, rather, he was “meditating and thinking while closing his eyes.”

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In Uganda, the reason given for slapping a daily fee on Facebook users that the government wanted to raise more revenue does not make sense at all. In Kenya, the government has said that the wisdom behind the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, is the all-important matter of curbing Fake News.

In Tanzania, the government of John Magufuli has said that the reasoning behind the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2018 was to curb “moral decadence” in society. All these are smokescreens to the sinister motives behind these draconian laws. Of course, the whole essence is to limit public access to information. A few months ago, President Museveni engineered the removal of age limits, paving way to his long held desire as president for life. Social media keeps people informed about these excesses and twisting of legal processes for self-gratification.

In Tanzania, the “moral decadence” the Magufili government is talking about is nothing more that hushing critics of the government. Today, opposition supporters in Tanzania are like scarlet star donning Jews in Hitler’s Germany, going by the persecution meted upon them by the government of John Pombe Magufuli.

There has been an increasing intolerance aganst dissidence in Tanzania, and it doesn’t require deep analysis to see why the government of Tanzania wants to control internet content. It is an orchestration to ensure that people don’t share their views freely, which may go against Mr Magufuli’s rule.

State capture in Kenya

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By so doing, the cult of personality that John Magufuli has been cultivating can grow into the mammoth similar to that of Josef Stalin. But it is the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act that should worry Kenyans. By now, it is an irreversible truth that Kenya is a bandit economy, a playground for a few oligarchs and gate-keepers in high offices, either acting on their behalf or as agents of bribe-paying international tender barons. The State has become captive of this cabal.

It doesn’t call for any analytical thinking to see the connection between the signing of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Bill into law and the abracadabra of the merchants of corruption.

The merchants of corruption are the authors of that law, and since there is neither the will nor the drive to fight corruption, the government hurriedly signed the Bill into law. The whole essence is to deny whistle-blowers a chance to speak the truth, so that the looting party can go on without disturbance from the tweeting, blogging servant class.

TheSh9 billion alleged scam at the National Youth Service may not have seen the light of day had the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act been in force. It beats any logic then why Kenyans should have the Access to Information Act, if this information cannot be disseminated.

Legal cover for theft

Looking at the punitive provision of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, it is a clear indication that the mercenaries behind the drafting of the law were looking for a legal cover to cushion them from the prying eyes of the Fourth  state in search for the truth.

The speed at which the Bill passed the legislative process is also questionable. In essence, this law has been put in place to protect perpetrators of illegalities. It is perplexing why President Kenyatta would be in such a rush to sign it into law. Economic banditry has reached a crescendo, to appoint where the “robber barons” are inventing laws to protect them from their looting endeavours.

Mr Karugu is a strategy and analytics consultant based in Nairobi. [email protected]

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