June 21, 2013
The stories of the Zimbabwean and American whistle-blowers, Baba Jukwa
and Edward Snowden
, corroborate some of our articles on online privacy and cyber-surveillance
. The former proves that there are steps one can take to maintain online privacy using a variety of tools, while the later underscores the fact that governments routinely spy on their people using such technology as deep packet inspection that we reviewed in a previous article.
There has been a massive cyber-manhunt by Zimbabwean authorities to expose the true identity of the anonymous cyber-whistle-blower who goes by the name of Baba Jukwa but that has so far failed. Huge sums of money have been offered as reward for anybody who reveals Baba Jukwa’s true identity but that has also failed. Apparently, Baba Jukwa may be using reliable online processes to cover his tracks and maintain his privacy.
On his Facebook page, Baba Jukwa had warned that a Zimbabwean politician critical of his own ruling party, especially the plundering of diamonds by some of the party’s powerful leaders, was being suspected of being Baba Jukwa and that the politician’s life was in serious danger. He went a step further to give a public warning to the politician, Edward Chindori-Chininga, advising him never to leave his car unattended and to always travel with a trusted relative.
On June 19, 2013, Edward Chindori-Chininga died in a car crush in which no other car was involved. Coincidence?-It is not for us to say but for readers to make up their own minds. It is obvious now that Honourable Chindori-Chininga was not Baba Jukwa because he is gone and yet Baba Jukwa’s revelations continue, unabated.
Baba Jukwa’s life could be in serious danger if his true identity was ever to be revealed. Obviously he has taken important precautions to remain undetected but we urge him and all those putting their lives at risk by using ICT to expose evil machinations of powerful leaders, to take extreme technical measures to cover their tracks.
Edward Snowden is a former CIA operative and, until recently, a contractor of the US national security agency (NSA), privy to a lot of secret USA government information which he signed an oath to protect. Through the Guardian, Snowden leaked documents revealing USA government secret surveillance of the communications of US citizens without their knowledge.
While there was outrage in America over the government actions, we were not surprised. In a previous article we indicated that some governments in Africa, including Zimbabwe and Zambia, were acquiring Chinese technology for cyber-surveillance. Nigeria recently acquired similar technology from Israel. While our focus is on Africa, we also knew that the USA routinely monitors their citizens’ communications.
The difference is that after the leak in the USA, the Obama administration was swift in coming out and admitting the existence of a monitoring programme and explaining that the surveillance was used to keep Americans safe from terrorism.
The threat of terrorism in America is real and the monitoring of communications by the American government, whether acceptable or not, is a desperate and genuine attempt at keeping Americans safe.
On the other hand, I am not aware of any African government that has come out to explain they use the cyber-surveillance technology. The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, refused to comment on the acquisition of the surveillance technology from Israel when he was asked by journalists.
Our concern is that cyber-surveillance technology acquired by African governments may not be used for the national security that it is intended for. Instead, it may be used to monitor political opponents, human rights activists and whistle-blowers, like Baba Jukwa, who expose corruption and murder perpetrated by megalomaniacs.