By Ssemanda Allawi
Last week, a US-based media outlet The Wall Street Journal alleged that a Chinese Giant Telecom Company Huawei helped Ugandan Security officials to spy on opposition politicians particularly Kyadondo East legislator Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine.
In the report, which was later reported by several Western Media companies, they further claimed Huawei employees had helped other African governments like Zambia to spy on opposition politicians there.
The report by the Wall Street Journal reminds me of a Latin Concept known as Libido Dominandi which means the will and urge to dominate. Arguably, US companies see stiff competition from Huawei against their Apple which had dominated market for smart gadgets for long, and as the concept Libido Dominandi suggests, countries will always have urge and will to dominate in aspects of market and politics that whoever tries to challenge or block their way, they can always find a way to block counter them including negative and unfounded allegations.
I really find it naïve and an insult to our national intelligence that the WSJ thinks that Uganda Government or security agencies need to first hack Bobi Wine’s phone to know about his intention to stage unauthorized concerts at Busabala or any other place in the country.
In my view, the blackmail by WSJ and their manufactured story that Uganda government and security agencies hack opposition phones is largely wrong and our government is simply a of hidden interests by WSJ and their lobbyists which are an open secret – to fail Huawei. Considering Huawei’s big market in African countries from both citizens who use their products as well as governments, it is very possible that Huawei is a target of blackmail to make people fear it. It is therefore not a surprise that these allegations against Huawei have come at a time after the company supplied Uganda with CCTV system worth over $126 million, a project Uganda police is hailing for to be aiding police in tracking criminals and reducing violent crimes in the country.
Therefore, the timing of this damaging report to Huawei’s image and depicting governments that worked with Huawei as unprofessional to spies on their citizens leaves a lot of questions regarding the intention of the report and its timing. The authenticity of such report itself should really be questioned; especially that even the US President Donald Trump on many occasions has accused US’ mainstream media of spreading fake news. This way, there is no reason why we should not treat Wall Street Journal’s report as fake news. Indeed, Chinese Ambassador to Uganda, Zheng Zhuqiang already termed the report and claim as fake news.
It is important to note that in International Relations and International Politics, every move taken communicates something and has a message to deliver. It is in this very spirit that in my view, these allegations against Ugandan security officials of spying on opposition politicians with help of Huawei staffers are wrong and in this scenario, Huawei is a victim of Great Power Politics and America’s wish to paint a negative picture on China’s successful firm which has emerged to be a challenger of ‘their’ markets and America’s wish that their firms continue to dominating world market (Libido Dominandi) without strong competition.
It should be recalled that the US has been persuading her allies to keep Huawei out of 5G telecommunications infrastructure and block the firm from accessing their markets giving similar reasons as Wall Street Journal is now claiming. The fact that Most of US allies especially major European countries like Germany and France are hesitant to positively consider America’s request to ban Huawei, it is very possible that efforts are being made to make people fear Huawei.
At the surface, it may look like there is no relationship between spying allegations against Huawei and struggle for the market. But if you trace the lowest common denominator, you will see a pattern and this pattern can lead us to know why such allegations are coming at this time and who benefits from the claims of Huawei aiding governments to spy on political opponents.
If we use the concept Cui Bono – a concept used in law to identify motives and aims in cases, it can help us to know why these allegations are coming at this particular time and to identify beneficiaries of these allegations and what their bigger motives are. Reporting that Huawei staffers connived with states and government security agencies to spy on citizens, this gives more reasons to justify US’s claims against Chinese tech giant (Huawei) and possible its boycott which the US has for long worked and publically campaigned for. In the end, if Huawei is boycotted, it is American tech giant Apple that will benefit by enjoying the market and ultimately, the US government gains in terms of revenue collections as the Chinese company is pushed out of the market.
Therefore, like John. J Mearsheimer taught us in his book; The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, it is important to know that in trade wars of great powers, everything is possible including baseless allegations with aim of helping one side to succeed.
Therefore, in my view, it is not a coincidence that it is after Huawei supplied Uganda thousands of CCTV cameras in several million-dollar projects to beef security in the country that we are seeing these allegations of spying.
The writer is a PhD candidate of International Relations & Diplomacy and author of Global Governance and Norm Contestation: How BRICS is Reshaping World Order.