George William Thembo Nyombi, a former State Minister for Information Technology, says he was misquoted in reports announcing an internet shutdown during the 2021 general elections.
Nyombi Thembo is the Director for the Rural Communications Development fund at Uganda Communications Commission [UCC].
He represented the Commission at a conference hosted by Unwanted Witness held at K-Hotel in Entebbe.
Media misquoted him saying the government would shut down internet like it did in 2016 general elections.
“Quoted out of context, of course, our usual fake news promoters could be at it again. This is what I said when somebody asked me about why did UCC switch off the internet in 2016,” he said.
Nyambi noted that there were compelling reasons to do so to protect the general good of all Ugandans.
“Uganda was not the first country to suppress internet when there was a need to do so. It was not the first and probably it won’t be the last.”
During the Boston marathon bombing in the USA, the internet was disrupted and in France when the terrorists attacked the internet was disrupted. Uganda can only disrupt internet when they are very critical compelling reasons to do so and the only reason for this can only be the protection of the general good of the population, he explained.
“Then another young man from the audience retorted that -but we used VPN to do whatever we were supposed to do. To this, I responded that technology is double-edged, there now solutions for VPN if a country needed to protect its citizens.”
He added: “I at no any time did I talk about switching off the internet and referring to 2016. I continued to say that any regulator would only agree to suppress internet painfully-telecom regulators are there to promote uptake of telecom services not to suppress them.”
Nyombi said he gave examples where other regulators would close off usage of the services, e.g. UNRA could close off a road if they thought it was dangerous to the travellers like when a bridge’s structural integrity is suspected of being compromised.
“I also told them when recently the civil aviation authority in the UK closed off a major airport on account of unexplained drones that were seen hovering over the runway.”