Africa: Pegasus International Espionage Expose Rattles African Governments

Diplomatic fallouts are expected after it emerged that Rwanda was allegedly spying on some African countries and individuals in an international espionage expose.

Revelations by the Pegasus Project report shows that Rwanda allegedly listed, for potential surveillance, mobile numbers of South African President Ramaphosa, Burundi Prime Minister Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni as well as some high-ranking Ugandan political and military figures, including then Prime Minister, now presidential advisor, Ruhakana Rugunda.

Prominent Democratic Republic of Congo politicians Jean Bamanisa Saidi, Albert Yuma and Lambert Mende are also revealed as targets.

A spokesperson for the Rwandan government denied using the Pegasus malware, telling a UK publication that the country "does not use this software system and does not possess this technical capability in any form."

The Pegasus Project is an international investigation initiative by a consortium of more than 80 journalists from 17 media organisations including the Guardian. Investigations identify Kigali as one of the governments, including some authoritarian African regimes that are clients of Israeli spyware firm, the NSO Group.

Kigali is said to have contracted the NSO Group and selected thousands of political activists, journalists, foreign politicians and diplomats as candidates to infect their mobile phones with spyware named Pegasus.

Ugandan intelligence supremo Joseph Ocwet, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda and Sam Kutesa who were the country's Prime Minister and Foreign Affair Minister, respectively, until recently, also had their phones allegedly tapped by Rwanda.

Former Uganda Chief of Defence Forces General David Muhoozi, who is now the Minister of State for Internal Affairs as well as prominent opposition figure Fred Nyanzi Ssentamu were also affected.

"If true, then it is absolutely wrong and unacceptable; a neighbouring country snooping on its neighbours in the region and in Africa," Uganda's State minister for International Relations Henry Okello-Oryem told Daily Monitor.

The report says Rwanda placed Mr Ramaphosa as a person of interest for possible surveillance in 2019 from NSO Group which provides mobile phone snooping equipment.

The South African government declined to comment if they have conducted any forensic analysis to establish evidence of any attacks. "We're aware of the public discussion, but the President doesn't have any comment to make," acting presidential spokesperson Tyrone Seale told Nation.

Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said: "Of course, we will not be happy that we have been targeted because we believe that not only infringes on the privacy of the president but also infringes on the sovereignty of this country to make its own decisions without other countries trying to preempt those decisions and influence them and also try to undermine those decisions."

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