The Star (Nairobi)

14 December 2012

Kenya: Ndemo Backtracks On Kenya's Internet Stand

Information Permanent secretary, Bitange Ndemo on Wednesday surprised African delegates and Kenya's representatives at the International Telecommunications Union meeting when he differed and earlier agreed common position on proposed internet rules.

The global telecommunication stakeholders have been meeting in Dubai for the World Conference on International Telecommunications to vote on different issues to do with governance,control and content of internet.

African states had agreed on a common position on 10 points on contentious issues, in a bid to protect their interests.

For instance, African states wanted rights to international internet routes so that they can be able to trace traffic origins which would enable them avert vices such as terrorism and fraud. But the US is opposed to this. Ndemo made remarks in favour of the US, surprising the African counterparts.

A source at the conference said Kenya was now seen as being used as a US puppet, rather than an independent participant. The PS is also said to have joined the US in opposing the inclusion of internet in the ITU against what African states had agreed. This is seen as the US trying to see that the control of internet remain US-centric rather than move inter-governmental centered.

Joshua Peprah, the chairman of the African Sub-Committee and director in Ghana's regulatory body termed the turn of events as unfortunate.

"The African group was united on the issues and we knew the direction we were going. It is unfortunate that he said something that was on the contrary," he said on phone from Dubai.

The US also want to have control of content where some countries would get or be denied access to certain sites. The African delegation felt this would disadvantage some as it would depend on their current relationship with the US.

Peprah said though Ndemo might have been speaking out his personal views rather than his position, our source told us international community took it that Kenya had shifted position to the US camp.

"There people here trying to use their power to influence others, it could be a possibility in this case too," said Peprah.

"In all these, the permanent secretary was being instructed on what to say, US representatives were passing scripts to him," the source said.

The disappointment with Kenya could see it stripped of chairman position on the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO) executive council.

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