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Friday, April 26, 2019

Wakabi's detention: African Digital Rights defenders condemn Tanzania, calls for immediate release - ITREALMS

African Digital Rights defenders have condemned the detention of the Executive Director of the Uganda-based Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Dr. Wairagala Wakabi, at the Tanzanian Airport, and called for his immediate release, reports ITREALMS.

Reacting to the news of the detention at the wrap-up session of the 2019 Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum in Lagos, the Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, Mr. Gbenga Sesan and Co-Convener of Kenya ICT Action Network (Kictanet), Mrs Grace Gathiaga jointly condemned the action of the Tanzanian government.

They noted that lately the Tanzanian government has been apprehensive over digital rights in the country especially after introduction of access fee for bloggers among other online rights advocates.

Decrying the detention, Sesan, lamented that the scale of abuse and harassment of digital activists have taken another dimension with this Wakabi incident and called for his release.

And for KICTANET co-convener, Gathiaga, the African digital rights defenders cannot be cowed with the activities of Tanzanian government in detention of Wakabi in order to frighten advocates. Insisting that advocates should not be seen as enemies but those who want good governance for our people.

She insisted that Wakabi be released without much ado.

Equally, the Lead Strategist at DigitalSENSE Africa Media, Mr. Remmy Nweke, bemoaned the detention of Wakabi, who described as a close pal and peace-loving.

He lamented that instead of appreciating the works of digital rights advocates on the continent, African government are seeing them as opposition, which should not be.

DigitalSENSE Africa Media, he told ITREALMS stands firm and jointly with other digital rights entities on the continent to condemn the detention and demanded the release of Dr. Wakabi without further delay.

In a related development, CIPESA in joint statement with JamiiForums, Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition Change Tanzania MISA Tanzania and  available to ITREALMS, condemned the detention of Dr. Wakabi and called for the authorities to unconditionally release him.

ITREALMS recalled Wakabi was detained, upon arrival, at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salam, Tanzania earlier Friday morning, while immigration authorities declined to state the reasons for his arrest.

Dr. Wakabi had been invited to Tanzania to participate in the annual commemoration of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders' Day hosted by the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) on April 28, 2019. Under the theme "Claiming and Protecting Online Civic Space for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Tanzania”, the event is 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 lawyers from the THRDC, authorities have blocked their access to Dr. Wakabi, stating that he is under interrogation - the outcome of which will determine whether he is granted entry into Tanzania or deported back to Uganda.

“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 subregion,” stated Onesmo Olengurumwa, the THRDC National Coordinator.

CIPESA is among the organisations nominated by THRDC to receive an award for is regional work in promoting human rights online, to be handed out during the commemoration.

CIPESA in joint statement with JamiiForums Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition Change Tanzania MISA Tanzania, condemned the detention of Dr. Wakabi and called for the authorities to unconditionally release him.

Nenye Dom/DoP

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