Dr Wairagala Wakabi, the Executive Director, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) has been deported from Tanzania.
Dr Wakabi, an experienced ICT specialist, researcher and media trainer was detained upon arrival at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salam, Tanzania on Thursday.
According to a release by CIPESA, although immigration authorities in Tanzania reportedly refused to divulge the basis of his arrest, it is believed that Dr Wakabi was being questioned in relation to his work with CIPESA, which has consistently published reports on internet freedoms in Africa.
Dr Wairagala Wakabi had been invited to participate in the annual commemoration of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders’ Day hosted by the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) on April 26th – 27th, 2019 under the theme: “Claiming and Protecting Online Civic Space for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Tanzania.”
The event was to be preceded by a two-day workshop aimed at engaging civil society organizations, online journalists and human rights activists on how to safely use online platforms for promotion and protection of human rights.
According to CIPESA, lawyers at the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders were reportedly denied access to Dr Wairagala Wakabi.
“We are currently at the airport following the matter. They have denied us access to him. We strongly condemned this untimely and unnecessary detention of our guest from our neighbouring country Uganda. We call upon all members of the East African Community (EAC) to condemn this tendency of disturbing citizens of EAC when travelling within the sub-region,” stated Onesmo Olengurumwa, the THRDC national coordinator is quoted by CIPESA in Thursday’s statement.
CIPESA is among the organisations nominated by THRDC to receive an award for its regional work in promoting human rights online to be handed out during the commemoration. However, after hours of interrogation, CIPESA says their director was deported back to Uganda.
“After hours of interrogation, Dr Wakabi has been deported back to Uganda this [Thursday] evening. However, lawyers remained unable to establish the basis of the detention and deportation. They report that authorities denied him entry into Tanzania on grounds of “national interest.”
In one of its reports on digital space and the protection of freedoms, CIPESA names Tanzania among nations that have proliferated restrictive policies, laws and regulations curtailing freedoms. In 2018, CIPESA authored a news story titled; Unmasking digital security threats facing human rights defenders in Uganda and Tanzania.
It has however faulted some countries on internet freedom in other reports.
“Governments often draft cyber-crime, ICT and other laws in vague and overly broad terms and selectively apply provisions to persecute activists and control the online and offline activities of the media and CSOs, examples are Kenya and Tanzania.”
The report says recent concerning trends include mandatory registration of online content creators, including bloggers, online discussion forums, online TV and other social media users, giving examples like Tanzania and Uganda who are imposing prohibitive license fees and onerous responsibilities on online content creators to monitor content and ensure that all content complies with the law.