Uganda has ordered all major social media and messaging apps to be blocked in the country until further notice. The move comes a few days before the country holds its general election on Thursday 14th, restricting Ugandans access to major platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube. In a letter reportedly from the Uganda Communications Commission, the regulator has asked telecommunications operators to restrict access to the Google PalyStore, iOS app store and YouTube.
Uganda has been marred with violent protests during the campaign period with Robert Kyagulanyi commonly referred to as Bobi Wine seeking to unseat President Museveni who has been in power for decades. Users in the country are reporting widespread Facebook restrictions as well as other social media platforms, and can only access through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This is despite the Commission’s spokes person allaying current issues to increased interest in the elections across the world leading to slowed access.
Last week during a one on one with journalists, Uganda’s Minister of Defense and Veteran affairs Adolf Mwesigye alongside his Internal Affairs Counterpart Gen Jeje Odongo said the government was working on how to best manage social media, which they claimed had been misused in the upcoming election. Mr Mwesigye further said they were having challenges with citizen journalism, and social media propaganda was not in the best interest of the country, therefore were looking for best way to deal with it.
Facebook blocked accounts belonging to Uganda government officials
The social media giant had revealed it blocked accounts belonging to government officials in the country, whom it accused of looking for ways to manipulate public debate a head of the elections. The elections are set to take place after a gruesome period of campaign that saw several clashes with police in a tense bid by young Bobi Wine 38, seeking to unseat Museveni 76, who has been in power for more than three decades.
This will make it the second time the country has restricted social media platforms in an election. Back in 2016 when Museveni’s job was on the ballot against former prime minister Amama Mbabazi, the government blocked access to Facebook and Twitter.