Kampala, Uganda – The Rwandan government led by President Paul Kagame employed Israel Spy Tech, Pegasus, to monitor phones of high-ranking political and military figures in the Great Lakes Region, OCCRP has revealed.
The list of selected numbers, according to the group of investigative journalists who conducted the research, shows that the Kagame government used Pegasus in a bid to hack phones of high-profile officials of its neighboring countries Uganda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) in an attempt to access confidential communication.
In Uganda, Rwanda’s Pegasus Project targeted the former Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa and former Chief of Defence Forces Gen David Muhoozi, all President Yoweri Museveni’s appointees.
The head of External Security Organisation, Amb. Joseph Ocwet is the other official who was targeted.
Also targeted was External security boss Joseph Ochwet and Fred Nyanzi Ssentamu, the brother of opposition figure Robert Kyagulanyi who is known by his stage name Bobi, Bobi Wine.
“The selections of numbers to monitor coincided with a visit by Kagame to Uganda,” the group of journalists who uncovered Rwanda’s diplomatic Espionage revealed.
“There is already enormous, well-founded suspicion between the governments in the Great Lakes region and Rwanda,” said journalist Michela Wrong in her extensive book on Rwanda ‘Do Not Disturb.’
“[Evidence of spying] will certainly encourage the view that Rwanda is not a partner playing by the rules.”
Spokespeople for the DRC and Burundi declined to comment. Uganda government’s spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo, said that it is “up to Uganda to strengthen its cyber security protocols, otherwise the world is full of spying and espionage even among allies.”
How Pegasus Collects the Target’s Conversations
According to OCCRP, when Pegasus is employed on a device, it effectively gives an attacker complete access to the targets’ conversations and even records them.
End to End encryption, available through popular apps like signal, does not protect against Pegasus once the phone is compromised.
Even the stringent security systems of iPhones do not stop Pegasus.
After infiltrationg the target’s phone, the hacker views one’s WhatsApp and Facebook conversations in real time.
The hacker can also turn on GPS to locate a target for assassination.
Rwanda denies conducting espionage activities in Uganda but Ugandan officials say it’s these acts and other attempts at compromising Uganda’s security that continue to affect Uganda’s relations with Rwanda.
Ugandan government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo said that it’s up to Uganda to strengthen it’s cyber security protocols otherwise the world is full of espionage even among allies.
Uganda and Rwanda have had frosty relations since 2018 when Rwanda unilaterally closed its borders to Uganda’s products and movement of persons, causing countless losses to Ugandan businessmen at a time Rwandan President Paul Kagame was the Chairman of the East African Community (EAC) – a regional bloc which, among others, drives integration and intra-regional trade, The leader of the small East East African country to Uganda’s west also stopped Rwandan Nationals from crossing to Uganda.
Pegasus is the malicious software manufactured by Israeli tech firm NSO Group, according to research by OCCRP and the Pegasus project, a global consortium of journalists coordinated by Forbidden stories.
Forensic analysis by Amnesty international Lab, which lent technical assistance to the project, found out that Carine Kanimba’s phone was successfully infected with Pegasus multiple times. She is the daughter of Paul Rusesabagina, the inspiration of award-winniing movie Hotel Rwanda, who was abducted from Dubai and is Incarcerated to date in Rwanda.
As part of the investigation, reporters obtained a list of over 50,000 numbers throughout the world believed to have been selected by NSO Group clients for targeting with Pegasus.
One of the journalists who was targeted is Uganda’s Andrew Mwenda, CEO of the Independent.
List of some of the Rwandans and Foreigners Targeted by Rwanda: