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Israel-Uganda sign defence cooperation agreement amid criticism

September 20, 2022 at 5:02 pm

Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Rosette Byengoma, signs on behalf of the Uganda Government while Asaf Dvir signs for the Israel Defence Forces [@RashadLubega/Twitter]

Uganda and Israel, on Tuesday, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on defence, amid growing criticism in the country over Israel’s hacking software, Anadolu News Agency reports.

The signing ceremony took place in the capital, Kampala.

Uganda was represented by Rosette Byengoma, while Israel was represented by Asaf Dvir.

“On behalf of the Israel Ministry of Defense (ISMOD), we would like to transfer our appreciation to the government of Uganda, UPDF, for this process and also for the continued relationship in the future,” Dvir said.

“Israel has helped us to strengthen our different branches of the military, more especially in Air Force and Air Defense,” Byengoma said.

Last month, Israeli Cyber Company, Cellebrite sold technology for hacking into cell phones to the Uganda Police Force, which has been accused of widespread human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, torture and assassination.

Much of the repression has been directed at opposition activists contesting the 36-year rule of the current regime.

The government of Uganda denied hacking claims.

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Uganda’s police said, while the technology in question was procured, it is not currently in use.

Last year, diplomatic staff at the US embassy in Kampala had their iPhones hacked using spyware sold by the Israeli cyber-weapons company, NSO group.

A report by the New York Times put the number of officials at 11, saying embassy staff had received a warning from Apple that “state-sponsored attackers are trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID”.

A spokesperson for NSO said it would conduct an independent investigation and cooperate with any government probe.

A number of human rights activists are calling for cessation of sales of the technology and support services to the Ugandan government, which has been in power for close to 40 years.

“The heart of the problem is that we have a military junta pretending to be a government and becoming more and more unrestrained,” Andrew Karamagi, a human rights activist in Uganda, told Anadolu Agency.