Cyberspace new frontier for US regime change agenda

Isdore Guvamombe
Just a few days ago, while receiving a donation of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the Chinese government, President Mnangagwa pointed out that Zimbabwe was reeling under a sustained cyber-attack.

“The social media attack is most unjustifiable, based upon fiction, non-facts, non-truth allegations, that there are gross human rights violations in the country. There is no evidence of such things happening,” he said.

Indeed, he was very correct, the cyber-attacks have become the vogue of our time. Mania, even!

After realising that the illegal sanctions regime imposed on Zimbabwe in 2001 has still not managed to bring Zanu PF rule to its demise, the United States and its allies have opened the cyberspace as a new frontier for regime change.

Day in day out, the cyberspace has gone agog with outright lies on the Zimbabwean narrative and the solemnity and enthusiasm behind it is clearly foreign sponsored.

In something akin to broad day light witchcraft, cooked up stories of human rights abuses, arbitrary arrests and abductions as taken as fact and used to brew international anger and invite condemnation.

Some of Zimbabwe’s citizens, especially in the Diaspora and in the opposition, have been found as ready and gullible pawns, and literally live on the social media as cyber soldiers for regime change. What a shame!

Over the years, the US in particular has strategically colonised the cyberspace, tuned and positioned it as a regime change weapon against governments it feels are not toeing its line.

The time has come when the world in general and the United Nations in particular come up with a functional cyber security protocol that respects all nations big and small.

International cyber security and use of information communication technology (ICT) should be used only for peaceful means. It is fact not fiction that Washington is striving for digital colonialism using its global dominance in ICT.

The abuse of ICT also concerns many African countries.

It is a known fact that Washington has always harboured intentions to use their technological advantages to get an access to sensitive information and to manipulate internal processes and public opinion in many countries it has interests and Zimbabwe is one such country.

Zimbabwe must have national sovereignty on its own cyber space and so should many other countries.

Therefore, it is critical to know that in order to protect national cyberspace nations should use UN as basic and the only mechanism to work out legal instrument taking into consideration common rules for all countries on how to use and behave in cyberspace.

Following the recent sustained cyber-attack sponsored by the US and its allies Zimbabwe seriously cares about its own cyber security and its Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill is informed by that. The influence of US in the field of ICT should be balanced by cooperation with other also technologically developed countries, with China as a variant.

Cyberspace should not a place for the military and political purposes. ICT must be used for peaceful purposes only.

Also there is a threat that when enjoying a monopoly, the US can unilaterally declare some of the states to be involved in illegal activity in cyber and take it as a “aggression” using that as a reason to impose sanctions and etc.

That is why these ICT rules should not be in the hands of one country and needs to be regularised by UN.

Suffice to say, a few days ago. I stumbled on some considerations made in an initial pre-draft of the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on developments in the field of ICT in the context of international security.

The paper noted with concern that there is an uneven distribution of the benefits of the digital technologies and that there is need to narrow the gap between countries like the US and others.

I felt it was supposed to be underlined that Zimbabwe, together with other developing countries face the predicament of continued cyber-attacks and abuse by those powerful countries like the US.

The group, sincerely felt that the development of offensive, ICT capabilities, militarisation of the cyberspace, cyber-attacks, cyber-crimes as well as cyber-terrorism are a now a global menace and significantly pose grave threats to the security and stability of nations.

“We reiterate concern over the prevalent misuse of media platforms, including social media networks, for hostile propaganda, interference in internal affairs of mother states, dissemination of discriminatory and distorted information of events such as election results, and campaigns, that defame and incite hatred among citizens.

“Cybersecurity should indeed follow a multi-stakeholder approach, however, private sector, non-governmental organisations and social media should also be regulated and made accountable for their behaviour in the ICT environment,’’ the group recommended.

The most interesting aspect here is that Zimbabwe has already started working on a bill to regulate social media because the platforms have proved to be disastrous. They account for 90 percent, if not more of the lies, the hate speech and the crass.

In coming up with the regulatory frame work, OWEG noted that some States (China, Cuba and Russia) have asserted that any rules, norms, and principles aimed at ensuring responsible behaviour of States in the cyberspace environment should therefore, not undermine sovereign rights of respective States.

It is therefore critical for States like Zimbabwe to be accorded the right to make ICT-related public policies consistent with national fabric, circumstances and situations in order to manage and maintain its ethos and protect their citizens’ legitimate interests in the cyberspace.

It is fact not fiction that states have the right and responsibility to ensure the security of personal information and important data relevant to their national security, public security, economic security and social stability.

Suffice to say, global governance in cyberspace should be a significant task for the international community. States should work together through the UN to create a multilateral, democratic and transparent global internet governance system and not leave it to one country to monopolise and abuse others, like how the US is doing at the moment.

For Zimbabwe it is clear that the country should support efforts to develop universally accepted norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour of states within the framework on the UN and recommend the renewal of the mandate of OWEG with the same aims and objectives it was founded on at the 75th UN general assembly to enhance continuity. The UN secretary general should be stopped from creating a new working group. Continuity is important.

The time to work on the global framework and stop the US from abusing the space for regime change and to disrespect internal processes of other countries is now.

An uncontrolled social media is a recipe for disaster. Information technology destabilises nations in particular and the world in general.

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