- Ugandan Government to identify and arrest users,
- Government to block all sites providing service,
- UCC acquired gadgets and capacity to switch off all the VPN websites.
The Government of Uganda has continued to oppress its citizens over internet access. This time saying they will track down and arrest people using Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
On the 21st of January 2020, The Uganda Communications Commission issued a statement warning its citizens to desist from using VPNs and pay social media tax or be arrested. They claim to have acquired the necessary tools and gadgets that can monitor and block websites offering the service. After that, they say they will come after those who are already using the online tool.
“Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has already acquired gadgets and capacity to switch off all the VPN websites and those who have been hiding under the VPN will have nowhere to [hide], but to pay the taxes,
We shall first identify all the websites offering VPN services and block them. They are many, but we shall ensure we block all of them, then from there, we shall start the next phase of blocking those who are already using the services,” said Mr Peter Ogwang, the State Minister for ICT and National Guidance.
This is not the first time they have claimed to have acquired gadgets that can block VPN technology. In 2018, the government of Uganda introduced what they termed Over The Top tax (OTT), popularly known as social media tax. This tax forces Ugandans to pay the government to use social media platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter. This law is unfair to citizens as data is already expensive in Uganda.
When introducing the tax, the UCC also claimed to have got the necessary technology to block VPN websites but 2 years later they are still to arrest an individual for VPN usage or block a single VPN provider.
Since then VPN has been popular as Ugandans resorted to using the internet tool to dodge the tax and free themselves from internet oppression.
VPN use was further accelerated when the government recently shut down the internet on 14 January, hours before election day. A move they explained the move as retaliation against tech giants Facebook for closing pro-regime accounts. 5 days later the internet was eventually restored but social media platforms remained closed causing more users to employ the use of the tool.
Although it would be interesting to see the UCC identify and arrest Vpn users, it is almost impossible as VPN hides user location by changing your IP address making it seem as if you are in a different country.