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Uganda’s cash-strapped cops spend $126 million on CCTV from Huawei

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CCTV

Kampala, Aug. 15, 2019 A forest of slender white poles topped with dark, unblinking eyes is quietly sprouting on the rubbish-strewn, potholed street corners of the Ugandan capital.

Police say the new $126 million closed-circuit television camera (CCTV) system, supplied by Chinese telecommunications giant, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, will slash spiralling violent crime.

Opposition leaders say law enforcement agencies are too corrupt and overburdened to use the footage to identify criminals.

They worry police may use the cameras, which have facial recognition technology, to target demonstrators in violent clampdowns as an election approaches in 2021.

“The CCTV project is just a tool to track us, hunt us and persecute us,’’ said Ingrid Turinawe, a leader in the Forum for Democratic Change, Uganda’s largest opposition party.

Facial recognition technology has become increasingly pervasive around the world, raising concerns about potential abuses.

Officials in San Francisco voted in May to ban its use by city personnel.

Huawei technicians have already helped intelligence officials in Uganda and at least one other African country spy on their political opponents, according to an investigation published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

In Uganda, they helped crack the encrypted communications of popular musician turned politician Bobi Wine; police swarmed a concert that would have featured surprise opposition speakers and arrested him and dozens of supporters, the paper said.

In Zambia, Huawei employees helped the government access the phones and Facebook pages of bloggers critical of the president so they could be tracked and arrested, the paper reported.

Huawei rejected the Journal’s “unfounded and inaccurate allegations”, telling Reuters in an email: “Huawei’s code of business conduct prohibits any employees from undertaking any activities that would compromise the data or privacy of our customers or end-users, or that would breach any laws’’.

Uganda’s cameras are part of Huawei’s Safe City initiative, which has been rolled out in more than 200 cities worldwide, including in China, Pakistan and Russia.

In Africa, Huawei has sold CCTV systems to countries such as Kenya, Egypt and Zambia where activists have raised similar concerns over privacy and effectiveness.

In Europe, France, Germany and Serbia have small projects with Huawei’s initiative.

The U.S. government has restricted trade with Huawei and four other Chinese firms, accusing them of espionage and stealing intellectual property.

It is also lobbying to persuade U.S. allies to keep Huawei out of next-generation 5G telecommunications infrastructure, citing concerns the company could spy on customers.

Huawei has repeatedly denied it is controlled by the Chinese government, military or intelligence services.

Surging crime in Uganda is fuelling public anger towards President Yoweri Museveni, 74, who has been in power since 1986 and will likely seek another five-year term.

Police in the oil-rich East African nation recorded 4,497 homicides last year, nearly double the number of five years ago.

Kidnappings for ransom, once rare, rose to 202 cases in 2018, an eightfold jump from 2017.

In one notorious case, the 28-year-old daughter of a wealthy businessman was kidnapped and killed despite her family, paying kidnappers $200,000.

Police investigations currently rely heavily on witness interviews, Charles Twine, a spokesman for the Police Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department, told Reuters.

It’s a notoriously slow and unreliable way to build a case.

There are not enough detectives and no forensic specialists.

Twine declined to give statistics but said police manpower was “critically wanting”.

The Police website said in 2015 the force was 45,000-strong.

That’s about half the United Nations-recommended ratio of one policeman per 500 citizens.

A 2015 budget paper for the Ministry of Internal Affairs said there were about 5,500 detectives.

Twine said police must turn to civilian experts if they need DNA analysts, toxicologists or fibre experts.

He hopes CCTV footage will be the answer, letting investigators “know who has committed the crime, how did he commit it, which route did he take and which tools did he have’’.

About 2,500 out of a planned 3,200 cameras covering metropolitan Kampala have been installed.

Huawei will eventually extend the system to all major towns in the country.

But some current and former law enforcement officials are sceptical that high-tech aids such as CCTV or new forensic tools, such as planned DNA and fingerprint databases, will have an impact on crime.

Uganda’s police are poorly paid and have little investigative training, said Herbert Karugaba, a Ugandan police investigator for 17 years before he joined the U.N. to probe genocide and war crimes in Rwanda and Cambodia.

“It’s money down the drain,’’ said Karugaba.

“It is the quality of the man and woman in uniform… that matters.’’

Uganda’s Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, an advocacy group, had its own CCTV running in May 2016 when robbers killed a guard and stole computers.

The group gave the video to police but nothing happened.

“After months of investigations, they eventually told us our case file is lost.

“There’s no record anywhere of our case,’’ said Adrian Jjuuko, the group’s head.

“If there’s no political will to investigate or prosecute crime, nothing will change.

“It’s all nonsense, CCTV or no CCTV.’’

Police start on a monthly salary of about $150.

Most prosecutors earn about $270.

Lawmakers take home around $6,500.

Most police barracks have not been renovated or expanded since colonial days.

Families live in tiny circular iron cabins, often leaking, overcrowded and dirty, an internal police report said.

Poor pay and living conditions encourage corruption.

Ugandans frequently swap stories of police who demand bribes, meaning some crimes go unreported.

At police stations, evidence moulders while cases await trial, said Mike Chibita, a former judge appointed in 2013 as director of public prosecutions.

There are only 400 prosecutors in Uganda, a country of 42 million.

It takes an average of four years to get a hearing, Chibita said.

Roughly half of the country’s 59,000 prisoners are on pre-trial detention, according to the prison service.

Trying old cases is a “big nightmare” Chibita said.

Exhibits disappear or decay.

Witnesses disappear or forget.

In one case, a blood-stained shirt disappeared in a puff of dust and mould when it was produced in a 2012 murder trial.

“Everybody in court began coughing,’’ Chibita said.

Expensive tools also do little to address underlying causes of crime, such as high unemployment or disputes over land, said appeals court judge, Geoffrey Kiryabwire.

Four out of every 10 young Ugandans are out of work.

Of those with jobs, around 80 per cent work in low-paid informal jobs, the Finance Ministry said.

They include people such as Aggrey Tugume, a 27-year-old motorbike taxi driver.

He thinks the cameras are an expensive election ploy.

“If someone is determined to kill or steal, a camera would be a small obstacle,’’ he said.

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

Foreign

Sheffield United beat Palace for first win of Premier League return

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Sheffield United beat Palace for first win of Premier League return

League

Lundstram fired home the rebound of Luke Freeman’s saved shot in the 48th minute as United gave the Bramall Lane fans plenty to cheer about.

The Blades, who last played in the top division in 2007, have taken four points from the first two games of their return.

Palace, meanwhile, has yet to score after playing out a goalless draw with Everton last weekend.

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Foreign

White House says ‘no recession in sight’ despite market turmoil

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White House says ‘no recession in sight’ despite market turmoil

Recession

Washington, Aug. 18, 2019 White House officials pushed back on Sunday against concerns that economic growth may be faltering, saying they saw little risk of recession despite a volatile week on global bond markets, and insisting their trade war with China was doing no damage to the United States.

“There is no recession in sight,’’ White House Economic Adviser, Larry Kudlow, said on Fox News Sunday.

“Consumers are working. Their wages are rising.

“They are spending and they are saving…I think we are in pretty good shape.’’

U.S. stock markets tanked last week on recession fears with all three major U.S. indexes closing down about three per cent on Wednesday only to pair their losses by Friday due to expectations the European Central Bank might cut rates.

For a brief time last week, bond investors also demanded a higher interest rate on two-year Treasury bonds than for 10-year Treasury bonds, often construed as a sign of lost faith in near-term economic growth.

However, Trade Adviser Peter Navarro on Sunday likewise dismissed last week’s warning signs, saying “good” economic dynamics were encouraging investors to move money to the U.S.

“We have the strongest economy in the world and money is coming here for our stock market.

“It’s also coming here to chase yield in our bond markets,’’ Navarro told ABC’s This Week.

That sort “flight to safety” is typically driven by concerns of global economic trouble – in this case, the possibility that the Trump administration’s tariff battle with China may dampen business investment and growth worldwide.

The tariffs on Chinese goods, Navarro said, “are not hurting anybody here’’.

The U.S. economy does continue to grow and add jobs each month.

Retail sales in July jumped a stronger-than-expected 0.7 per cent, the government reported last week, and Kudlow said that number showed that the main prop of the U.S. economy is intact.

But manufacturing growth has slowed and lagging business investment has also become a drag.

Globally, flagging global trade appears to have pushed the German economy toward recession and dampened growth in China.

A slowdown would be bad news for President Donald Trump, who is building his 2020 bid for a second term around the economy’s performance.

He told voters at a rally last week they had “no choice” but to vote for him in order to preserve their jobs and investments.

Despite talking up the economy, the president and his advisers have repeatedly accused the U.S. Federal Reserve of undermining the administration’s economic policies.

On Sunday, Kudlow again pointed the finger at the central bank, describing rate hikes through 2017 and 2018 as “very severe monetary restraint”.

The Fed hiked rates seven times over those two years as part of a plan to restore normal monetary policy, following the emergency steps taken to battle the 2007-2009 global financial crisis and recession.

Even with those steps, the Fed’s target interest rate has remained well below historic norms and policymakers have started cutting rates in response to growing global risks.

Democratic presidential candidates on Sunday joined the many economic analysts, who have said the administration’s sometimes erratic policies are to blame for increased uncertainty, disappointing business investment and market volatility.

“I’m afraid that this president is driving the global economy and our economy into recession,’’ Democratic candidate, Beto O’Rourke, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Foreign

Iran says U.S. move on north Syria safe zone is “provocative”

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Provocation

Dubai, Aug. 18, 2019 A U.S. agreement to set up a safe zone in northern Syria, a close ally of Iran, is “provocative and worrisome”, the Iranian Foreign Ministry was reported to have said by the semi-official Fars news agency.

The U.S. and Turkey last week agreed to set up a joint operations centre for a proposed zone along Syria’s northeast border.

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Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Foreign

Israeli military kills 3 Palestinians at Gaza border – reports

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Killing

The Israeli military said an attack helicopter and a tank fired at the “armed suspects adjacent to the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip’’.

Palestinian officials confirmed the casualties, according to the reports.

The incident came amid a recent escalation of tension between Israel and the Palestinians, despite Egypt-brokered effort to reach a cease-fire agreement between Israel and the Islamic Hamas Movement.

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Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Romanian elite climber killed in Fagaras Mountains

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Mountains

The evacuation of the deceased climber in the area of Negoiu Peak was carried out by land and the body was transported to the Legal Medicine Service in Sibiu, as Adrian David, head of the Sibiu Mountain Rescue, was quoted as saying by official Agerpres news agency.

David believed that Zsolt died after a rock broke up with him, considering that the area in which he was, near the Negoiu Peak, is very unstable and rarely visited by climbers. He was alone on the mountain, in an area with no signal.

Zsolt’s disappearance had been reported on Saturday morning. Mountain rescue and gendarme teams, as well as a helicopter of the Interior Ministry, searched for him for several hours.

Zsolt, 45, was a highly seasoned climber, who led in 2013 the Romanian expedition to Pakistan’s 8,126m-high Nanga Parbat and summited in 2016 five Himalayan peaks.

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