Hunger; the ultimate failure by East African governments

The main focus has been on the humanitarian needs for the worst affected. The UN estimates that and extra $1.2billion is required to meet immediate needs and of this so far less than $300 million has been provided.

Yet the discussion cannot just be about meeting the needs of today. This crisis was predicted, governments and international community had enough time to respond and had they responded we would not be seing images of children with bare ribs arriving in Dadaab.   I have seen statements slamming international community for its slow response to the crisis but I have not seen many questions put these African governments expect for Kenya over opening a new camp for Somali refugees.

Read more of a blog i wrote for Channel16 published earlier this week.

Uganda radio presenter dissapears

Yesterday the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) sent out a message on the disappearance of Augustine Okello aka Rouks, a radio presenter at Rhino fm based in Lira. Okello was last seen at the office of the District Internal Security officer on Wednesday last week. Since July 13 he has not been seen.

Journalists believe there’s a chance he’s being help incommunicado by authorities. Today over 50 journalist marched to the central police station in Lira to deliver a petition demanding that authorities explain where Okello is being held and why he’s being held.

The the DISO Eryaku Steven shut his office and never met with the journalists. Okello is also a student at UMCAT School of journalism-Lira Study Centre. Eryaku denied Okello’s whereabouts but the presenters motorbike has been parked at the station since he’s disappearance. The police is not talking about the case and they claim to have opened an inquiry.

Detention with charge for anyone is supposed to be illegal the last I checked but may be as many things in this country change day and night that too could have changed.

This case just reminded me my recent trip to the Newseum in DC where I found the case of Hussein Musa Njuki a journalist who died in detention on August 28 1995 three days after his arrest. Police said he had died of natural causes but few believe that account. Whatever Okello did police or security forces are violating the 48 hr rule for any detention.

Others on the list of journalist who have been killed in Uganda at the Newseum.

Detention without trail; another slap to Uganda Constitution?

In April, in the heat of walk to work protests that were led by opposition groups, President Museveni suggested he would bring proposals to parliament to change the constitution. He said he would seek to remove constitutional bail for “rioters, economic saboteurs, rapists and murders.” At time many thought the president was merely speaking out of anger as the Uganda was in international headlines everyday thanks to the high-handedness  the security forces used against the protesters who simply wanted to walk to work to highlight the need for concrete interventions in rising food and fuel prices.

To shock of many and those who think still has the vision for this country, Museveni has insisted that that detention without trial for months for anyone under the group he has mentioned is really needed. The proposal is a clear move by Museveni to get to arrest and detain his political opponents or those who question his policies. He just threw in categories like rape and murder to play emotions of Ugandans. He knows even within his own party, many don’t agree with his move to remove a constitutional right and breaching of the law that recognises that one is innocent until proven guilty.

The Uganda Constitution provides that a person arrested in respect of a criminal offence is entitled to apply to the court to be released on bail and the court may grant the same on such conditions as the court considers reasonable.

To bypass those opposed to this change even in his own party, President Museveni has called for a referendum which he is sure he can manipulate to get his desired outcome just like many elections we have had since he came to power.

Daily Monitor quoted Livingstone Ssewanyana, a human rights activist saying such A change would be contested in court but also said.

“The referendum would be a good idea” as it would “let Ugandans decide if they want to be enslaved by such an unconstitutional move”.

In the past,President Museveni has used trumped up rape charges against his opponents. As a person who has worked with survivors of sexual violence in war affected areas in Uganda (some of it carried out by government forces), I don’t think Museveni’s inclusion of rape in this category is an attempt to address the issue. Denial of bail cannot  stop the rape or provide the much needed services for those who have been rape victims and can’t easily access justice.

To entertain an idea of holding such a referendum at a time when the economy is not doing well, when many are unemployed shows how out of touch the president is. We will watch and see if the president will achieve his mission and this might not be impossible if you know how the constitution was changed to deal away with presidential term limits.

Arms Trade Trade negotiations on

This week the third arms trade treaty preparatory committee  for the UN Conference on an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)  is seating in New York.  The purpose of the PrepCom is to make recommendations on the elements that would be needed to attain an effective and balanced legally-binding instrument on international standards for the transfer of conventional arms. The ATT is to be negotiated in July 2012. has developed a map showing states and where they stand on the different aspects of the treaty that are to be negotiated on.

I looked through to see how African states are doing on a few issues. You can follow the map to track down countries, their positions and voting patterns on the issue.

Armed Violence:

Most of African countries have made expressions of support for considering ‘prevention of armed conflicts/violence’ as a criteria in the Arms Trade Treaty but they are not actively advocating that violations of the criteria should lead to a denial of the transfer, or suggesting their inclusion requires consideration.


Under Munitions:  ‘Ammunition’, ‘munitions’ and ‘explosives’ refer to large caliber munitions (e.g. missiles) and small caliber ammunition (e.g. bullets for firearms).

Most of African states have expressed strong support for including ‘ammunition’ or ‘munitions’ in the scope of the Arms Trade Treaty. Apart from Ethiopia and Egypt.

Maritania has not made any statement is publicly about its position on munitions.


Brokering generally refers to arranging or mediating arms deals and buying or selling arms on one’s own account or for others, as well as organizing services such as transportation, insurance or financing related to arms transfers, and the actual provision of such services.

Here most of African countries have no known stand. Most ECOWAS countries have expressed support for the inclusion of ‘brokering’, ‘brokerage’, ‘brokers’ or ‘dealers’ in the scope of the treaty. South Africa, Egypt and DRC only mentioned of brokering and dealing without expressing support. South Africa and Egypt are top of the list of arms production on the continent.


This category maps States’ positions on including as a parameter of the Arms Trade Treaty provisions to restrict transfers that could exacerbate or institutionalize ‘corruption’ or ‘corrupt practices’. In the context of arms transfers, corrupt practices include bribing of state officials with commissions and kickbacks provided by arms producers and traders to facilitate a transfer agreement.

Only Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Zambia have given this corruption inclusion a strong backing. Most of the states on the continent have no known stand on corruption in the arms trade and transfer under the treaty.

U.S and China remain one of the few countries strongly opposed to the corruption clause while many countries have remained silent. Many African states lose a lot of money in covert arms trade deals by corrupt state officials which are never known by the citizens.


But also countries are tied in talks on implementation of the treaty.

The major weapon producing and exporting states articulated a vision of a simple treaty that above all ensures that “commerce”— the sale of weapons—is unhindered by stringent transfer criteria or robust treaty implementation measures. To this end, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (P5: China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, and United States), along with Canada and India, stipulated that the implementation provisions should be “simple, short and easy to implement.” Arguing against the inclusion of any specific implementation measures, the P5 said, “Domestic implementation in accordance with national legislation and regulations in line with the obligations that would arise from any possible ATT would be the most practical way to address implementation.”

According to the Arms Trade Treaty Monitor.

But for many states, and most of civil society, setting standard criteria for arms transfer decisions is the point of the ATT—they see the treaty as a gauge that all states must use before authorizing an arms transfer, and they argue that this will help improve equitably, as well as human security.

Spirit not shaken; Ugandans remember July 11 bomb victims

It was supposed for be a joyful day.  Uganda, a football loving country just like many in different corners of the world was waiting to see who would lift the first World Cup trophy on the African soil. Hosting the World Cup, even when it was thousands of miles away at the Soccer City, was something the filled the hearts of many Africans with pride. On this day I was in Johannesburg, in Soweto watching the great performances of the likes of Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Angelique Kidjo, Eric Wainaina and Oliver Mutukudzi as they wrapped up the World Cup with great African rythms.

In the later hours of the day shortly before Spain lifted the trophy, Uganda witnessed horror as twin bomb blasts ripped through bodies of young men and women. 76 lives most of them young Ugandans were taken in just a few minutes at Kyandondo and Ethiopian restaurant. Al Shabab, the al-Qaida linked Somali militant group had been warning the country over our troops that have been deployed in Mogadishu since 2007 and they later claimed the responsibility.

The last one month, the Ugandan media especially Daily Monitor  has done a great job covering the lives of those who survived the 7/11 and those whose loved ones were taken by the bombings.

However we have not comprehensively covered what happened in regard to the bombers and how the 7/11 bombings happened. Our government did carry out arrests even cross the border in Kenya and Tanzania but not much has come out of this. There has not been any proper trial. We have seen reports of Kenyan human rights defenders locked in our jails, many people locked without charge and it seems Uganda has emulated tactics from the American war on terror that saw thousands of innocent people jailed without trail.

Daily Monitor today carried a story of how terrorists lived in close proximity with top defense officials in the country and yet our intelligence failed to unearth the bombing plans.

“It was apparently planned in Mogadishu, the explosives assembled in Kenya’s Eastleigh, a Nairobi suburb, while the funding was allegedly wired from Pakistan and execution carried – to devastating effect – in Kampala by among others, ordinary-looking Ugandans some of who fraternised even with the senior army officers.

In the story the Army spokesperson Felix Kulaigye informs us that terrorism is impossible to stop.

“Terrorism is impossible to stop since it has no face or religion. You can only minimise their chances,” he said, pointing to the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda attacks on the US, despite the world super-power’s sophisticated security arrangement.

Ugandan photojournalist Edward Echwalu captured the memorial service held today to mark the one year 711 bombimg anniversary in Kampala. One message from caught my eye ‎” 7/11 bomb blast, we remember one year later, our spirit is not shaken…”

It’s important to support families of those who lost loved ones not just by throwing money at them but give them psychosocial support. But above all we need to ensure that no more bombings take away another Ugandan life.

While it’s difficult to stop a man willing to take his own life in order to kill others, its’ possible to be truthful about our engagement in Somalia which is the main link to why the attacks took place our soil in the first place.

After the bombings most Ugandans started asking what we were doing in Somalia, before not many ever cared that we had troops there. Terrorism can inflict pain on anyone but our spirit to seek a genuine engagement and understanding our foreign policies and their impact should not wither.

Many believe we are fighting someone else’s war in Somalia and we will no doubt pay the price. After fighting the Taliban for 10 years, the US is leaving Afghanistan with not much to show in terms of stability. Last month US drones wounded militants  in Somalia. My worry and the worry of many Ugandans is that our country as well as Burundi have embroiled themselves in war on terror when they have the least capacity to protect their own citizens from the retaliation that is always assured.  Despite our troops being in Mogadishu as peacekeepers, this is very much a war and years have shown that we are still looked at as a representation of foreign interests in Somalia by Somalis. This argument has its own basis. Ugandans need to question our involvement in Mogadishu and whether our leaders have any plan to leave.

A strong UN force on North-South border needed to realise South Sudan independence

Tomorrow, the UN Security Council will vote on a new Mission to South Sudan. The current Mission (UNMIS) has to leave the country (North Sudan) by  Saturday  July 9 when the Republic of South Sudan finally comes into being. Different agencies working in Sudan have to the last few days try to put up a case for a new revitalized force which would have a mandate to enforce peace given the current security situation in border states as well as Abyei and South Kordofan.

The situation is tense as the inevitable divorce approaches. The northern army has bee accused of ethnic cleasing in Abyei by many human rights campaigners. Such charges are not baseless. According to OCHA, in 2009 over 350,000 people were displaced by violence and 2,500 killed in southern Sudan.

By mid-June 2011 alone, over 300 conflict incidents had taken place, with over 1,800 people killed and 264,000 people displaced in southern Sudan. This means more people in South Sudan have been killed in the first months of 2011 (over 1800) than in the whole of 2010 (less than 1000) most of them  through violence in the North-South border areas, deadly cattle raids, inter-communal violence and clashes between southern rebels and  the SPLA – South Sudan national army.

Violence in recent weeks in Abyei, Southern Kordofan and across southern Sudan has also forced over 180,000 people to flee their homes, according to UN reports.  The UN has called on the Security Council to send a strengthened Mission to the border as the situation is very tense and the country needs all the support it can to protect its population.  The UN asked for 7.000 troops but reports indicate talks are going very badly as the UK, US and France are trying to trim the size of the Mission, its budget and its staff.

Kirsten Hagon, Head of Oxfam’s New York Office yesterday said:

“Hundreds of billions of dollars has been spent in Afghanistan and more recently over US$ 1 billion was spent in three months in Libya. That is the cost of the current UN mission in Sudan for a whole year. Southern Sudanese deserve to get the full backing of the UN Security

Oxfam warned that taking the cheap option would cost lives and risks destabilizing the region. The agency said inadequate numbers of peacekeepers for the next mission in South Sudan risk endangering thousands of lives and future stability.

While the UN peacekepers alone cannot bring the much needed peace to people living in the border states and regions like Abyei and South Kordofan, failure to fully fund and resource the Mission – including by slashing troop or civilian staffing numbers due to cost concerns – would undermine the progress that has been made over the past six years.

“If there was ever a time for the Security Council and countries that contribute to peace keeping to support the people of Sudan, it is now. Violence is rising and this isn’t the time to go cheap by cutting on the budget of the future UN mission, on the number of boots on the ground or the number of civilian staff. They must walk the talk and provide their strong backing in a time of optimism but also extreme tension for the people of South Sudan,” said Hagon.

As the budget for the Sudan Mission is to be slashed we see realized that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, who will decide the future of this mission,  spent in 2010 alone a staggering US$ 996 billion on military expenditure while the annual UN Peacekeeping budget is roughly $9 billion.
Beyond the funding, the issues that have marred the UNMIS1 should be avoided.

Like Tendai Marima is a Zimbabwean blogger noted there have been issues with the intervention of the peacekeepers.

In Abyei, Zambian peacekeepers preferred to hide out in their rooms for two days rather than go on patrol and protect civilians caught up in the conflict. Similarly in South Kordofan, Egyptian troops are reportedly occasionally reluctant to carry out their duties.”

Such conduct must be checked if the UNMIS2 is to make any impact but for now the UN Security Council must deliver a well sized and well budgeted force to protect civilians in Sudan.



No Political War

It’s been great two weeks.I made a one week stopover in Brussels to catch the Couleur Cafe, an annual music festival that brings out the best of music from the world outside Europe. My inspiration was to watch the Ivorian Reggae legend Tiken Jah Fakoly perform. He’s such an activist who has been unable to live in his home country. He spends most of his time in Mali. I wanted to hear him sing tracks off his 2010 album, African revolution. The album  emphasises the need for a more African education and understanding of the problems of the continent by those that live on the land.

The album couldn’t have come at a better time when in many countries in Africa youth are trying to push for political and economic changes.  There’s another  good one, Political War, which came out right before his country descended into violence late last year and the greater part of this year. Talks about wars and devastation in Liberia, Nigeria and other countries. Coming from Uganda where we are  holding our breath hoping President Museveni will retire after his three decades rule, this album makes so much sense, we want no political war!

Some other songs talks at increasingly irrelevance of some African leaders to their citizens. I captured the great stage in Brussels.

Tiken performing at Couleur Cafe Saturday June 25 2011

One man protest over walk to work killings in Uganda

It’s one of my last days in Washington DC before i head home. I took a walk with friends by the White House today. From a distance I could see the flag waving. It had black, yellow red. Few flags can be confused with the Ugandan flag, i took a few steps and i saw one man holding out a placard. As i walked closer to him, one image caught my eye. The image of Brenda Nalwendo, the photo that send chills down the spines of even those i knew to love President Museveni’s regime.  It was in April she was shot right in her belly as she tried to cross the streets as the police and military fired on protesters. She was pregnant and by the hand of God she survived and her baby was unharmed. I later visited her in hospital and haven’t heard from her much. But right here in DC i saw her picture and also the picture of parents of a 2 year old Juliana Nalwanga who was killed in Masaka. About 10 people died in the protests.

Bukenya at the White House holds out a placard with images of those who died in the protests in Uganda in April.

This week civil society organisations called for an independent inquiry into the April killings. I am not optimistic this will happen as we have seen many inquiries in Uganda tend to be a waste. Charles Bukenya was the man holding the placard with these images. He’ on hunger strike a colleague tells me. Its part of the vigil that former presidential candidate and opposition figure  Nortbert Mao has called for,according to Bukenya. Bukenya is a Uganda Young Democrats (USA) head. He says he will not end the strike until President Obama talks to him or about the human rights violations by the current regime. He says its time U.S stopped being blind to the ‘impunity’ that rules in Uganda.

Charles Bukenya head of Uganda Young Democrats in USA on a one man demonstration + hunger strike over April walk to work killings. Rosebell's photo

DRC second worst place to be a woman in the world; what’s in a label?

DRC, orthographic projection.
Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, the Trust Law which is part of the Thomas Reuters Foundation published a Danger Poll. The results were about the five top spots where it’s dangerous to be a woman in the world. Top was Afghanistan and second was Democratic Republic of Congo. The indicators were six; non-sexual violence, sexual violence, health threats, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking.

When I first saw this on twitter via @VOACongoStory.  I replied: And these narratives stick!! #DRC #CongoRT @VOACongoStory poll by Trust Law .

DRC was put in that spotlight because of the war time rapes that are well documented in the Eastern DRC where different militias control different parts. The survey identified Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Pakistan, India and Somalia as the top most dangerous countries for women in 2011.

We journalists love to jump up to the terms coined to describe a place or a people-sometimes without questioning. Our challenge is always, how do you describe a place or people to another person who has never been there and make them feel as if they are there? Sometimes the terms coined might well fit the situation but as an African, I have seen these terms thrown around by those outside the continent who are so ready to speak for us in their endeavor to get more funding to ‘save’ Africans. What they never think of is these terms stick even when these situations are gone. Many have heard of the war in Congo and mass rapes from different UN resolutions and regional agreements. Our very own army – Uganda committed horrendous crimes in DRC between 1998-2003 and so did four other African armies. The challenge we are faced with in the Congo is not so much in coining terms to describe a whole country as worst place to be a woman but rather finding real interventions to end the lawlessness in DRC that allows impunity to do anything from murder to rape.

So I had a discussion with my former editor at Inter Press Service Africa Terna Gyuse on why the world is fixed on coining terms instead of embarking on real interventions. I am also aware that these narratives put on an entire country last way longer. Before we know it everyman from Congo will be looked at a rapist or even asked questions on immigration forms like, did you rape anyone during the war? How do you help a country without creating negative connotations to a whole group of people? This was Terna’s response:

Part of the problem is there are too many people paid to sit in offices and sell campaigns or places they’ve never lived. They’re always busy fighting on someone else’s behalf, they are making so much noise they have to add extra something or the other to everything just to be heard. We all do it I suppose. They are sitting there, well paid and with their fingers on the triggers of access to everything, always adopting people they like to feel are helpless.

But (sadly) we let them do it. Always lining up to be “climate witnesses” for this group or whatever the flavour is. We go to too many meetings not to say anything  but to ask for help. We Africans are so often ready to be whatever they say we are. On conflicts Oh everyone knows those rural African men are sex-mad patriarchal rapist fiends, hopped up on drugs and tradition and the power of the gun. When we get good access, we’re still busy explaining ourselves to outsiders whether its access to the media, to powerful people elsewhere or to wealthy people elsewhere.

Seeing this term coined, ‘worst place to be a woman’, I thought this can easily be passed onto Uganda, Zimbabwe, Chad, South Sudan or even Central African Republic. The term made me wonder, I thought of Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist who founded a hospital in the eastern Congolese city of Bukavu to provide free care to the victims of sexual violence. The man has worked tirelessly to provide for women who would have lost lives and provided support for their psychological recovery. Having seen firsthand the worst impact of rapes of women of his beloved country, I wondered if Dr. Mukwege would ever evoke the term ‘worst place to be a woman’ as description of  his country.

I can only hope that all the killing, looting and raping, which includes men as victims too, will be presented as part of a complex story of DRC that has got many facets. That the world shdn’t just be satisfied in having the largest UN Peacekeeping mission in Congo with little results to show. We should question whether the agreements on the exportation of the blood minerals do hold and whether the Kabila government is doing enough.  It should also be told that despite the rapes, Congo has got women and men that are making shifts in making their communities better for all and that the redemption of Congo cannot come about by just throwing around labels.

Internet a 21st Century Human Rights issue?

This week the UN declared internet access a basic human right. To many in African countries which are still grappling with challenges ranging from health, infrastructure, unemployment etc this declaration may be difficult to see relate to. I am taking part in the Internet Freedom Fellows program funded by the Department of State and managed by the U.S. Mission in Geneva. The fellowship follows up on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pledge to find innovative ways to promote the use of the Internet in support of human rights. While in Geneva earlier this week, I took part in an event where Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council, reiterated Clinton’s statement that the Internet is “the public space of the 21st Century.”

For many the internet is like being a square or a Baraza. However many in Africa are yet to see the internet as a basic right. Ben Scott, Clinton’s Policy Advisor on innovation whom I had a chat with called the internet is “the first truly  21st Century human rights issue.”

We were looking at internet freedom and before I had asked how this basic right would be realized for many in Africa. Scott said that just like mobile banking (MPesa, Mobile money) is doing tremendously well in Africa, the internet access will continue to be majorly tied to mobile telephone penetration in Africa. He indicated that Africa’s mobile phone penetration has surpassed Europe’s yet it’s still at 40 percent. This makes the internet and mobile phone market pose both an economic and political opportunity.

In most discussions it was clear that we have two types of freedoms related to the internet; freedom to access internet and freedom on the internet. All world leading economies have thrived on information systems and making them accessible to all citizens therefore increasing their participation in the economy. A connected society is going to be more prosperous and stable.

Many governments in Africa are moving to invest heavily in the laying down of internet infrastructure.As more people on the continent are connected to the internet, they will also seek a different kind of governance because of the access to information. This is what Scott called, a dictator’s dilemma.

‘Everyone recognizes that future of economy is largely based on information infrastructure. So governments want populations connected but at the same time they want to control speech on these networks and it’s a dilemma,” Scott said. “Internet tends to shift power from centralized institutions to many leaders representing different communities. Governments who want to censor are fighting a battle against the nature of the technology,” Scott said.

So the dilemma that despotic leader, whom we have in plenty on the continent, face is political speech versus economic prosperity.  Scott said: “You can’t have one and leave the other and that’s the exact dictator’s dilemma.”

This was well manifested in the recent protests in Uganda when the government instructed the internet service providers to shut down facebook and twitter. First the telecom industry is one of the leaders in tax revenues in Uganda and provides a lot of jobs for the Ugandan youth in a country where the number of unemployed graduates has become worrying. In the face of such a directive companies had a lot at stake, most telecoms provide internet and they feared a backlash. This directed was leaked to the press by people in the telecoms who were concerned that they would be the first victims of the backlash. So in the end the government didn’t achieve its mission. President Museveni cannot choose to get the taxes from the telecoms which help him run the country and at the same time easily pass directives to control information.

Clay Shirky, Adjunct Professor at New York University graduate program Interactive Telecommunications said no other invention has ever threatened the Westphalia state like the internet has done. The states in the past were able to effectively control radio, newspapers and TV but the internet is a challenge.

“This is a cultural and political choice. Protecting freedom of speech is a governance challenge. Westphalia where government controls everything survived the 20th Century media innovations, we are going to see if they can survive the internet,” Shirky said.

Only ten percent of Ugandans access the internet yet about 10 million of the 33 million Ugandans have mobile phones. The use of internet is partly hampered by illiteracy levels as well as cost but Uganda has a youthful population which is will take new information systems even with just post primary education.

There are real infrastructure problems hindering access to internet in Africa but we are seeing more investment. According to ComputerWorld, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi have linked forces together on a $400 million investment in terrestrial fiber optic cables. The new network is expected to run close to 16,000 kilometers from southern Sudan to Tanzania’s border with Zambia. The terrestrial network called the East Africa Backhaul System  will connect to the submarine fiber-optic cables on the East Africa coast.

However some governments have already moved to suppress freedom on the internet.  According to recent report from Freedom House, Ethiopia’s internet is one of the top less free in the world.Internet access has been denied and controlled through monopolizing the communications industry to curtail freedom of expression. In Ethiopia the few people that access the internet that is government controlled cannot freely express themselves.

This kind of control is what my friend Ssozi told me about when we shared about internet as a basic right declaration.  He said as long as access to information is not a right, internet being a basic human right declaration will not benefit most of the people living under undemocratic governments.

Even with infrastructure in place many worry that some governments in Africa may decide to go the China way which has put up what’s now famously called the ‘Great firewall of China’.  It’s a deceptive path for African governments who may be considering the China way of having economic prosperity and also stifling freedoms of expression and speech.

China spends a lot of money on building firewalls to prevent free speech but Scott believes this cannot easily be replicated. He says even with its economic might, it will be very costly for China in the long-run to block people from accessing information. The costs of bypassing the firewalls are way cheaper than putting one, some said.

In Africa, government still have a hold onto public broadcasting which many people rely on in the absence of cheap accessible internet. So for internet access as a basic right to be realized or even for it to make a difference in the way citizens in Africa can hold their governments accountable, development budgets and strategies for both by governments and international development organizations must take this into consideration.

There has to also be efforts to ensure protection in the face of growing desire by governments to curtail freedom on the internet in the wake of North Africa uprisings. We have seen internet play a key role in protests in Swaziland, Gabon and Uganda to some extent.

At a recent meeting of bloggers organized by Google Africa and Global Voices there was a general concern that many African government are employing tactics of threatening the internet user s directly instead of cutting off internet or attacking their sites which could bring about immediate condemnation.  In Uganda journalist Timothy Kalyegira is the first person to be arrested and charged for an online article written in Uganda Record.

Scott said that in the internet age there has to be a  “move from government to government diplomacy to a people to people diplomacy.”  When a question on recent Wikileaks case,  Scott argued that there’s need to balance state security and internet freedom. Yet it’s in the same name of security that authoritarian government crackdown on their citizens.

Shirky says the debate on whether there can be internet freedom is still very much open. “No country recognizes universal right to speak. The negotiation around this kind of freedom is going dominate the next 10 yrs.”