Ugandan police accused of using facial recognition to stifle Museveni term protests 

Occurred: November 2020

Ugandan police were accused of using a facial recognition system supplied by Chinese company Huawei to track, arrest, and torture protesters against President Yoweri Museveni’s November 2020 decision to seek another term in office.


Local politicians and rights advocates had flagged possible human rights and privacy violations when the system was acquired in 2019 as part of Huawei’s Safe City programme. Since 2020, civil society groups have criticised governance institutions in Uganda for failing to protect the fundamental rights of citizens from surveillance in public places. 

This comes amidst reports that Uganda is expanding its digital surveillance capabilities as part of a nationwide integrated surveillance system, including capabilities to check vehicle license plates and monitor social media.

A Ugandan police spokesperson denied that the technology was used to monitor opposition figures but confirmed that a new surveillance system was in use.


In transition or fragile democracies, this incident raises questions over how imported surveillance technologies are used to quash protests and suppress individual freedoms. Reports indicate other countries in Africa increasingly importing surveillance technologies, including Nigeria, Morocco, Zambia, and Ghana.

System 🤖

Operator: Government of Uganda; Uganda Police Force
Developer: Huawei
Country: Uganda
Sector: Govt - home/interior; police
Purpose: Identify individuals
Technology: Facial analysis;  Safe city
Issue: Dual/Multi-use; Governance; Human/civil rights; Privacy; Surveillance
Transparency: Governance

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: October 2023