Opinion: Ogwang, what behaviour do you mean?

The government is investigating Ugandans, whom it says have been misusing internet and social media platforms before reconnecting all of them back. Appearing before the Information and Technology Committee of Parliament chaired by Dokolo South Legislator Paul Amoru, the State Minister for ICT Peter Ogwang said the full reinstatement of the internet will be dependent on how Ugandans online behave” (NBS Television, 21.01.2021).

The Media Blackout and Social Media Blackout was direct orders from the state directed through government authorities to block all internet gateways. The state has also blocked all social media apps and sites online. The ones accessing these are using VPNs or Virtual Personal Networks to circumvent the blockade of state.

The Foreign Minister Kutesa said they had blocked Facebook and Twitter for “equalities” sake, as the foreign companies had blocked pages and persons affiliated with the government. Today, the Staet Minister for ICT Ogwang says its depends on “behaviour”. What sort behaviour do the honourable minister mean?

Hon. Ogwang by what law and what statutes are you basing this on?

That is something I wondering about. Since, you are not only indirectly blocking all voices on social media and on the internet. However, you are also putting in conditions, which cannot be verified. These conditions is based on certain parameters, which the public cannot get the gist off. Because, what does it mean?

The Minister should really come out with a proper statement and reasoning behind this. As this was a measure not based on actions made by the citizens, but by the powers of the state. Because, the state wanted to keep things in the black. They wanted the truth to be hidden and not expose the obvious election rigging this month. It wasn’t about language, posts or anything in particular.

I was expecting the state minister would say he was afraid of “tribalism” or “inciting violence”. However, he talked about behaviour like the citizens are kids. This is a paternalistic of the minister, but nothing new from this regime.

This is deliberate by the state to silence and ensure several of voices doesn’t come online. If they were sincere. They would have used other arguments and reasons to do so. However, this is just bonkers and ridiculous. The minister knows it and the citizens should know it too.

We know why they did it and this is just excuses to continue it, instead of reinstating it. Which they should have done yesterday or even the day before that. Peace.

‘Yellow Influencers’ Get a Food-Drive!

Last year in 2019, there was reports of a new Social Media Task Force for the National Resistance Movement (NRM), which had up to that point hired 49 people. The NRM already had their Social Media Activists (SOMA). So, they had two units work in co-ordination with each other. This is all attempts to steer the narrative and control the air-waves. Not new in that regard, but using modern methods to hit the public with information.

Just like all the other entities, which are government friendly press like the New Vision Group. The UBC, Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC) and Uganda Media Centre to name a few.

In these COVID-19 lockdown times. The NRM together with the leader of the pack of the NRM Social Media Task Force, Duncan Abigaba have shown that they are feeding 245 bloggers. This is done through the kindness of Muhoozi Kainerubaga or the friends of him. They call them “Yellow influencers or bloggers” because that paint the picture. Even the blogger of Ashburg Katto is in the mix, so it seems its not far from the prison-cell to eating of the hand of the system.

These people will be instrumental to get the right vision ahead of the General Election of 2021. This is why they are even now doing deliveries and feeding them food. They are getting serviced by the state for a purpose. Because, these influencers can sway public opinion on social media and various of platforms. That is why Promoter Baalam and the Social Media Task Force of Abigaba is involved in this.

This is ensuring loyalty, as the payment of some rice and other foods during the pandemic. Will remind these Yellow Influencers whose their friends. They got to eat in the midst of it all, because hey are useful right now and in the future. Their platforms on the various of social media will be vital.

Its like 120 personalities on Social Media and about 120 bloggers, which is getting this treatment. This means these people are included and selected out, because of their writing and their content. This is because Duncan handpicked them and know what their up too.

That is what is striking is the amount of effort and to show their names on social media. These is our folks and comrades. Just go into Duncan Abigaba page on Facebook and the whole list will appear. It expose the ninjas writing and working directly for the NRM.

The Yellow Influencers if you may. The friends of Muhoozi is allowed to give these foods without any reinforcement of police nor any meetings with authorities. Because, they are working in-directly for the efforts for the state. This is partisan politics at its best. That information is being dropped on the day the UPF disclaim everything about Zaake whose healing after torture. That is the sort of state the Republic is in.

Where Yellow Influencers can get a food-drive by the Son-of-the-President. But opposition doing the same to his constituents are healing in the hospital after meeting the authorities. That is the double standard and the realities on the ground.

That Baalam and Abigaba is above Zaake is now clear as day. That the Yellow Influencers are important is clear too. They will be a tool into the elections and the campaigns, spreading the message of the “Yellow Bastard”. Peace.

Opinion: Took 18 months to deem “a Pair of Buttocks” as an inoffensive communication

Since early 2017, Dr. Stella Nyanzi have gotten into legal trouble because of her public statements. She was charged on the 23rd March 2017 for offensive communication, as she deemed the President as a “Pair of Buttocks” in a Facebook post. Ever since then she has gone in and out of prison. However, the longest stint was 18 months in Luzira Woman’s Prison. Today, the International Criminal Division have ordered to overturn her conviction and sentence from lower courts. The state also lost the appeal on the grounds of offensive communication.

Therefore, today on the 20th February 2020, she has finally been released after struggling on the docket, before taken back to Luzira briefly to sign-out and then released. This has been a to long journey over some “buttocks”.

That the timeline between 23rd March 2017 to 20th February 2020, she has been taken in- and out of prison. She has been carrying the weight and been resilient in her quest for freedom. Since the charge in March 2017, the amount of days carrying this has been the total of 1064 days, or 2 years and 10 months and 28 days. That’s a long time for one Facebook post.

Dr. Nyanzi has gone through a lot, she lost an unborn baby because of it too. There must been an overload of pain and suffering, which we cannot understand. Still, with all that pressure, all the negativity and the destructive pattern of the state towards her. She has stand strong and been able to push through. That is admirable and should be recognized.

Stella Nyanzi has carried a lot of pain, a lot of suffering and continued. That is what we all should admire about her. That she has stood up to injustice, unfair rulings and court judgments, which were biased in favour of the President and explicitly constraining the ability of people to express themselves online.

Nyanzi isn’t perfect, she isn’t aiming for it either, but what she does has a point. That the President is a pair of buttocks. That he acts like that and talks like that. This is why he could address himself as the Leopards Anus, but she couldn’t call him buttocks. Which is double standard and hypocrisy at its best.

She has paid for this. Stella has been through a journey, which many wouldn’t wish on anyone. Still, she’s there and able to fight for her causes. Justifiably so. No one can deny Stella that. The ones that does is ignorant of the message and the courage of standing up to the military might and powers to be with only a computer and a free mind. That is what she has done.

So the verdict on the President. His not a saint, neither is he grand, when he let one of his subjects be in prison for over 18 months and charged falsely with offensive communication for over 1064 days. He is a “pair of buttocks”, Mr. President you just have to live with it. Peace.

Mobile Money Tax shortfall: People change behaviour after levying an unfair tax

Levy on mobile money contributed a deficit of UGX 30.48 billion which can be explained by the fact that high value clients withdraw their funds from agency banking e.g MTN has had a drop of 36 percent in MM transaction values since the introduction of the levy on mobile money” (Uganda Revenue Authority, 06.02.2020).

There is also reported that it has been a 36% drop in Mobile Money Transactions since the enaction of the Exercise Duty in 2018. That means, the added tax on the MM transactions are backfiring. The State isn’t adding revenue, but ensuring that people are finding other ways of moving their money.

This is not shocking, that people change behaviour, when the state makes it more expensive. As the people used these services to send each other money by convenience. Now, one third of the transactions are gone. Meaning, the ones that can change their ways has done that.

The losers are not only the Telecoms, but also the state. As the shortfall of taxes got to be covered elsewhere. As the state had put this into the budgets to cover other state works. This means the targets for domestic revenue wasn’t considering the implications of doing it. As, there wouldn’t be an natural reaction to the consequences to the new taxes.

Instead of increasing the tax base, they are making it smaller and not able to find measures that makes sense. The state has clearly done this without due diligence, neither also configured the stats and the possible behaviour of the public. As their ways gotten more taxed and not considering that they would stop, if they found it to expensive or unreasonable.

The MM tax and the OTT taxes was measures made to tax the digital market-space in the Republic. However, they have both been flawed and also not met their targets, because the public found other ways of doing things.

The ironies about the MM saga is that before the tax, the business of MM was growing. A natural growth and having more transactions every year. Now, that they levied the tax its has a big fall. That is a result of the MM Tax and the public is not having it. Peace.

Opinion: OTT Tax on Data Bundles is like a dual-VAT

“URA Commissioner General Doris Akol told the Finance Committee of Parliament chaired by Henry Musasizi that the controversial OTT Tax will be charged directly on data instead of mobile money to curb the evasion” (NBS Television, 14.01.2020).

I wonder if Doris Akol has thought this through or is winging it? As she see the losses and lack of results, revenue or tax base with the 200 shillings of doom. The whole OTT Tax is to expensive for the public daily. Now, she wants to move it and indirectly tax it instead.

Surely, they will get revenue, but this will make it more expensive to buy data-bundles for the customers and make the packages more viable. VPN and similar networks to circumvent the usage and payments of the daily OTT Tax have beaten the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). That is why URA does this now.

It is a sign of defiance and civil disobedience. They are trying to patch the hurt. But will this succeed? Will more try to only load data through Wi-Fi networks and wireless networks in general. Not load so much data on the go. Because, people are smart and tries to undercut extra taxes. Especially, when on the data is already paid VAT and the Mobile Company pay their taxes on the profits too.

Therefore, URA and Akol seems fishing. They will raise revenue, but also make the data bundles more expensive and with that stop plenty of people from buying bigger data bundles for surfing online on your smart-phone.

That is just the mere reality. It is a sign, yet again that the OTT is a failed project, who didn’t hit the targets and wasn’t measured right. If it was, the aim and the bargain wouldn’t be like this. That is not happening.

This method is a clever way of adding the costs of data, while charging for service not necessarily used. The OTT Services, which is the reason for why these are charged. Because, the data could be used for other things and therefore, is violating its attempt to make it costly for certain usage on online.

This is again, pushing one story, pushing one tax and trying to tax the public by any means. When the hook doesn’t work, they use the crook. Instead of doing directly, they want to do it indirectly and initially in some way adding a separate VAT on data-bundles masked as OTT Tax. That is really it.

We all know this, URA verify it today. That the only things certain in life is death and taxes. Thanks Akol for reminding us. Peace.

OTT Tax: Totally failed its supposed revenue targets in 2018!

Today, the Uganda Communication Commission released their annual sector performance report of July 2019. It was really a bit funny look, as the state, the President and all of his handlers said the Over-The-Top Services would create a tax-base and revenue, which would benefit the state. That is why Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) had set up targets to streamline these new taxes.

I will show more of the fun and explain, as the UCC report really shows how malfunction and lack of due diligence hurt. But first a previous calculation, which was stated to the media. To show how much lack of tax-base the OTT had in 2018, as it was implemented in July and keeps pushing to this date.

Look:

Daily Monitor Reports: “Government collected Shs20.5b from social media in the last quarter ended September, according to data obtained from Uganda Revenue Authority. The tax, which was implemented in July, was however, less than the Shs24.9b target that URA had hoped to collect in the period. URA has a monthly target of Shs8.3b. The tax was introduced in the Excise Duty amendments of financial year 2018/19 requiring all social media users to pay Shs200 per day, before accessing certain platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter, among others. Government intends to collect about Shs100b before the end of the 2018/19 financial year” (Christine Kasemiire – ‘OTT raises Shs20b in first quarter, URA fails on targets’ 07.11.2018).

Let’s first do the math, accordingly, as the URA monthly target is 8,3bn shillings in revenue, every single month. A quarter of a Financial Year is 4 months. In today’s UCC report, it shows the numbers for the Q3 and Q4 of 2018. Which means, that states revenue from July-September and October-December in the previous years. By these standards its 8,3bn X3 to get the supposed of any given Q. That is 24,9bn shillings is estimated to earn per quarter.

However, the UCC report states that in the Q3, the revenue was 12,696,558,400 or 12,6bn shillings which is only about half of the anticipated revenue. The final quarter or Q4 isn’t much better:12,952,833,800 or 12,9bn shillings. Of the estimated earnings, the state is nearly able to gain about half of its target. The market and the consumers are not contributing or using the phones as much as they thought. What is striking if you combine the two quarters of revenue is that the state earned approximately 25,5bn shillings, which is sadly just above one quarter estimate of the URA in supposed revenue on this tax. The estimated earnings of the period would be about 49,8bn and this shows the state managed a deficit of about 24,3bn shillings. That is about on quarters earning not happening at all. Thats a giant shortfall of cash and the URA/UCC needs to explain the Ministry of Finance this one, because this a major loss of promised funding for the state.  

This shows how failed this tax is and what a waste of enforcement and making the tax in its first place. This isn’t fun and games, but a way of misusing power to tax people, just because you find something obnoxious. That is how it seems, since the President want to stop the gossip online and such. Stop spreading of information and ensure that poorest cannot afford to get online and use the OTT services. Because, that what this tax does. Peace.

Uganda: Press Statement – Justification of procurement of OTT services for Members of Parliament (16.05.2019)

NRM plans to get activated online: A Company of paid Social Media Activists!

That’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody’s going to be against, and everybody’s going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything.”Noam Chomsky

The National Resistance Movement is steadily preparing for 2021. By every initiated move, they are trying to make it feel relevant and have a message to sell. It is not enough to have the Uganda Media Centre, Uganda Broadcasting Company, New Vision Media House, Government Citizen Interaction Centre or even the Ministry of ICT, whose all trying to peddle the message and image of the NRM.

Still, these are not enough. That is why the NRM have gotten a NRM Social Media Activists (SOMA). If this wasn’t enough, the NRM had already hired about 59 people for a Social Media Task Force run by Duncan Abigaba. Where one part of the team had specialists serving various of social media sites, while the same task force had hired 14 people to run the program on Twitter. This was leaked in August 2018. So, the team has been in play a while, but who knows how operative or even successful it is.

Yesterday, there is a new revelation. Not with a significant new change, but certainly a continuation of the building a digital task force and spin machine for the world wide web. Where they hope to spin enough and overlook enough to get the people to catch their bait. Either by the hook or by the crook. That is just what the NRM does.

The news yesterday, was that the NRM plans to hire a 100 Social Media Activists for all the republics regions, to represent all of them and spread the message. This is certainly a progression to the ones working for Abigaba who was hired last year for his Task Force. These will maybe fall in under his mission and umbrella. To ensure, that the NRM are acting correctly and getting the right image online.

We can clearly see t that Bosco, Mr. Sunday, Yoseri or Yoweri Kaguta Museveni are active online. Even if he has proclaimed there is only rumours and waste of time on Social Media. He himself is there and claimed to be biggest, most followed Ugandan on Twitter. Surely, there is a lot of paid bots on his followers page. Trust me on that one.

However, this is just a sign of the Don Wanyama’s, the Andrew Mwenda’s and whatnot of direct supporters, even Morrison Rwakakamba or whoever else spreading the words of old man with the hat. They will be now repeated a lot more and the self praise will hit levels that not even Soft Power and Sarah Kagingo would manage. That is what the NRM is preparing. They need the loyalists, the ones praising every move the His Excellency is doing. That is just the way it is.

If this is continued of the Task Force of last year, if it is hiring the ones in NRM SOMA. Surely, they will sooner or later, kick and scream because the NRM cannot manage to pay their salaries. They are there for a payday, not because they believe in the vision of the old man. They are not volunteers, but paid activists. Just like the ones paid to demonstrate before too. Staged nightmares waiting to appear. Peace.