A Quartz Africa source with the knowledge of the police operations says Huawei staff and other “experts” from China are still in the process of installing an “integrated” system part of a classified contract between the authorities in Kampala and Huawei to supply and install surveillance equipment in cities and towns throughout Uganda.

In 2019, Ugandan police officials confirmed the government had paid at least $126 million as part of the deal which is more than the combined 2020 budgets ($108 million) of the ministries of ICT and Science & Technology ministries.

Local and international rights groups say footage from the Huawei surveillance cameras has been used since 2019 to monitor political rallies and other events of  president Museveni’s opponents. The unregulated surveillance is characterized by pervasive location monitoring, facial recognition, biometric, and blanket data retention practices among others.

Unlike in the West where there are security concerns about a Chinese company dominating 5G technology, Huawei has been broadly welcomed by African governments. Here it has played a key role in helping to build the telecoms infrastructure needed for a 21st century economy in several countries. But more recently its roles have expanded to other projects such as security for governments who are so inclined.

Ahead of the 2016 polls, president Museveni’s government procured the services of a UK-based firm, Gamma Group, which delivered a surveillance technology reportedly used to spy on Museveni’s opponents in an operation dubbed “Fungua Macho”.

A Wall Street Journal investigation last year suggested the government in Kampala used assistance from Huawei to hack into messages for the presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, prompting his arrest and detention. Bobi Wine, a popular musician who was elected to parliament in 2017, is extremely popular with young Ugandans and has been a thorn in the side of the Museveni establishment.

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