Welcome to the era of `deep fakes’
Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | On Jan.21 Kayunga District Woman MP, Aida Nantaba, told Parliament that the killers of former Butaleja District Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda have attempted to kill her. She said Nebanda’s mother had warned her of the killers.
“I received a phone call from Cerinah Nebanda’s mother. She told me honorable, you are going to be killed by the same person who killed my daughter. I was shocked because I didn’t know where she had got my number,” Nantaba told parliament.
Nebanda’s death in December 2012 sparked controversy. Some reports claimed the legislator who was just 24 years old at her death but had shaken parliament with her outspokenness, was poisoned. An official postmortem report by police said she was using narcotic drugs. But the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, refuted the police report. President Yoweri Museveni was compelled to explain that Nebanda’s death was not an assassination. Several MPs; including Nataba who is a former government minister, have since then said publicly that they live in a fear of being assassinated.
But After Nantaba spoke in parliament; Nebandah’s mother, Alice Namulwa Mukasa, denied that she warned Nantaba of imminent death. In a letter dated Jan.23, Namulwa said Nantaba’s allegations were “blatant blackmail and defamation” and threatened to sue her if she did not apologise.
“You know very well that I have never in my life telephoned you neither have I had any connections or dealings with you whatsoever,” she said in the letter.
This incident puzzled many people. Nantaba has been controversial in the past, but why would she make a public claim on the floor of parliament if it was not true? Did she really not speak to Nebandah’s mother?
Same questions regarding Nebandah’s mother. Namulwa is a respectable woman who could possibly not deny something she said. What motive does she have to deny talking to Nantaba if she did?
Then on Jan.30, a similar case was heard in the Utilities, Standards, and Wildlife court in Kampala. This is a special court that handles cases involving criminal use and misuse of utilities such as electricity, water, and telecommunications, among others.
At the centre of the case was one Geofrey Kalele, a young man suspected to be involved in several cybercrimes. The suspect allegedly has impersonated several high ranking people on the social networking service; Facebook, including the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, the Inspector General of Police, Martins Okoth-Ochola, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, Security Minister Gen. Elly Tumwine, First Lady Janet Museveni and others. He allegedly sets up fake accounts in their names on Facebook and uses them to communicate to his fraud targets. To get money from victims, the suspect allegedly makes them believe they are communication with the high ranking official. He allegedly offers his victims promotions in rank, jobs, and money to start income generating projects. In the process, he somehow extorts money from them.
Although these two cases appear unconnected, they might in fact, be similar. Kalele, the suspect in the second case, cons his victims into believing they are communication with a person they actually are not. Could Nantaba be a victim of a similar ruse? Could someone posing as Nebandah’s mother have called Nantaba?
Unfortunately, as we write, the Nantaba case remains unclear. But the possibility of someone posing as Nebandah’s mother and calling Nantaba raises suspicion of cyber or communication crimes.