We had arrived at a point where we thought Huawei was a catching a break from damaging information and deeds: for instance, the U.S. softly lifted the ban that stopped American companies from doing business with the Chinese corporation. Just the other day, the Trump administration was reportedly looking into ways that will make the new development regarding the lifted ban a permanent decision.
Huawei itself tried to make amends from bad publicity by announcing a new operating system that has been under development in the last decade, an OS that is said to have been motivated by a conscious projection that a future that relies on the likes of Google (for Android) and Microsoft (for Windows) is not guaranteed.
These announcements and major product releases have since been seen as a good attempt to stabilize a corporation that does not have a good rapport across the globe, mainly popularized by President Trump who has, from to time, said that Huawei ‘should not be trusted.’
The antics, for those who fault the U.S. for rallying against Huawei, have made Chinese telecoms equipment maker receive an assortment of sympathy from nations that do not subscribe to American ideologies owing to Trump’s normalized rants against world leaders, governments and systems that are against the U.S.
A new expose by the Wall Street Journal dropped another bombshell about Huawei activities in Africa. The investigative piece confirms what many people have always suspected, that Huawei has been helping African leaders track the movement and communications of their opponents.
Cases in point happened in Uganda and Zambia, where Huawei employees working in those nations helped government institutions intercept encrypted communications. The messages, for instance, were used to locate opposition bloggers in Zambia. This makes people question the need for encryption of communications and validates accusations that have been made about Huawei’s alleged illegal activities.
In particular, Uganda has been under the spotlight owing to the nation’s President, whom people feel has overstayed his tenure. This, among other civil and human rights abuses, has seen the rise of activists and young leaders that are campaigning for change, especially Bobi Wine. Apparently, the government of Museveni tapped the talent of Huawei engineers and an Israeli hacking tool to decrypt Bobi’s WhatsApp messages regarding plans to organize street demos. The Facebook-owned chat app is top-rated in Africa.
On the other hand, it is reported that Huawei engineers helped the state gain access to phones and social media pages (Facebook) of bloggers who pushed the agendas of opposition leaders. The information was allegedly used by people working for President Edgar Lungu, who then arrested the bloggers.
Spokespersons from both countries have since admitted that their governments sought the expertise of Huawei engineers to combat issues that could lead to the spread of ‘fake news.’ To shed more light on this, the world of fake news has become a sensitive and popular topic, where renowned media houses that report on issues in a negative light are branded ‘fake news’ peddlers by people affected by the reporting. It is a complicated situation that entails many players to pull off – and it is such a big thing to combat as it ‘misinforms’ consumers.
It is also worth noting that Huawei HQ in China has denied any involvement with the damning report, citing that those who may have been involved in the vice acted in their own capacity.
“Huawei rejects completely these unfounded and inaccurate allegations against our business operations. Our internal investigation shows clearly that Huawei and its employees have not been engaged in any of the activities alleged. We have neither the contracts nor the capabilities, to do so,” reads a statement by a Huawei spokesperson.
By the way
Huawei’s operations in Africa are deep-rooted. The technology company serves many tech corporations in the continent, including mobile operators. Locally, for instance, Huawei equipment are used by carriers such as Safaricom; it erects infrastructure required for cellular connections (Huawei is one of the pioneers of 5G technology) and supplies materials required for services such as fibre connections, among many other functions.