Remember Big Brother Africa? Well, you will not have to watch it on television anymore as President Yoweri Museveni has outlines plans that will make you live in it – with him playing Big Brother – watching your every move.
In an impromptu yet planned address to Parliament, Museveni revealed that the traditional methods of dealing with crime have been overtaken by events and the government is now set to adopt high-end technology for surveillance, detection and investigation of crimes across the country.
Electronic number plates
In his new 10-point programme, Museveni ordered that all motor vehicle and boda-boda licence plates be electronic and carry an electronic signal chip that will enable the government to know where it is in real time adding that the current number plates are useless as criminals can simply bend or unscrew them at their pleasure. The installation of the new plates will be at the cost of the car owners.
“This will enable us to know which vehicles or bikes where in which area if a crime is committed. If anyone tries to interfere with the number plates the central system will be alerted and registration will be cancelled,” he said.
Museveni reassured the legislators that the government will respect privacy and “will not bother anyone going to see their girlfriends” unless their cars or motorbikes are found in the scene of crime.
The tracking chips in the vehicles will give the security forces the ears of the goings-on but the president is convinced that without the eyes, the police will still be visually impaired.
“The criminal can evade other forms of detection except the optical. The eye, camera and telescope. I warn security agencies not to depend too much on the telephone because serious criminals avoid the use of telephones. The eye is unbeatable,” Museveni added.
The president to re-echoed the banning of wearing hooded jackets when driving noted that in areas where the government will not have cameras, Museveni says the government will rely on private commercial and residential cameras to fill the gaps.
Museveni further noted that motorists will have to acquire new helmets with illuminated numbers both in & at the back, the ones which shine at night. These, he says will also be registered and put in the central system of police tell who was at the scene of crime using CCTV footage and nab them with ease as their identity cannot be disguised.
Drones to boost Flying Squad
No, not the ones that shoot weddings. These are high-tech Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) mounted with cameras that will be deployed by the police frying squad to easily navigate the skies to the crime scenes and deliver tactical support, do reconnaissance without being impeded by gridlock traffic jam that dominates most of the Ugandan roads especially in urban centres.
You can stay in one place, Museveni said, and use the UAV to watch. However, the drones, 30 of which have already acquired and approved by the National Security Committee will be the only ones allowed in Ugandan airspace unless private users seek clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
“While we use UAVs to fight crime, the enemy can also use them to promote crime. The defence committee has authorised 30 UAVs. 131 UAVs have put in their application. 500 have been impounded trying to enter the country illegally,” Museveni said calling for their regulation.
Social Media Surveillance
The tracking will not stop on the streets. It will also extend to your house as the government is acquiring devices to monitor social media usage and flag posts containing hate speech content, meant to cause panic among the public or with any relationship to crime before or after it has happened. Museveni warned that the misuse of social media by criminals to threaten violence spread lies and cause panic is almost history as the government is going to acquire capacity on top of what the Uganda Communications Commision already has to quickly locate criminals without interfering with other honest users.
“Why hide identity? You hide because you are a liar. We shall get you,” Museveni said as if referring to his elusive critic, Tom Voltaire Okwalinga alias TVO.
In an attempt to boost the government forensic laboratories to give security apparatus the capacity to thoroughly investigate and narrow down on the criminals, the president revealed that government will get DNA samples from the population and store it in their system so that if blood, sweat, hair or saliva or fingerprints of the killers drops on the crime scene, they can easily be traced using their DNA.
Noting that the DNA idea attracted gears from legislators, Museveni defended the move saying that, “If we want our country to be peaceful, what are you fearing, giving your DNA to be stored. Who will lose? Only the criminals are worried.”
The president also revealed that there will be a mandatory gun fingerprint registration to make it easy to know which guns were used in criminal activities and who it belongs to, scanning of heavy vehicles and good containers entering the country’s borders, and a possible redeployment of a reserve force to boost security especially at local administrative units.
How practical are Big Brother’s plans?
Jerome Bananuka, a CCTV camera trader in Kampala explained that most cameras are useless when there is no light for them to capture a clear picture. With most of Uganda’s highways and roads even in cities lacking street lights, how then will CCTV cameras get good pictures at night?
“Forget the streetlights. UMEME goes off here almost all the time. How will these cameras work when the power itself is on and off? I think the president is moving a bit too fast,” he said.
When it comes to number plate licensing and helmet numbering. The president forgets that there already been several programmes to register boda-bodas and have them have at least one helmet each – a directive that has never been achieved, one would wonder how is this directive which involves financial costs going to be successful, one would wonder?
As Mukungu Franco, a lecturer at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) notes, a government that failed to implement the acquisition of speed governors, the use of seatbelts, the mandatory vehicle inspection should not lie that they will pull off the vehicle relicensing at the cost of the motorists.
“The soonest it can be achieved is after 10 years,” Mukungu adds.