Uganda banned social media in the capital on Tuesday and stepped up its security efforts. Two days before the presidential election, Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, will join opposition leader Bobby White. En (Bobi Wine, a popular singer) duel.
Election activities before the vote were affected by the brutal suppression of opposition rallies, resulting in dozens of deaths. Some opposition candidates, their supporters and campaign staff were repeatedly intimidated and arrested.
A video posted on social media on Tuesday showed a convoy of armored military vehicles driving towards Kampala and then slowly moving along the streets in the center of the capital, where votes are usually opposed to Museveni.
Museveni apologized for the inconvenience caused by the ban on social media and text messaging, but he said that after Facebook removed some accounts of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), the ruling party that supported him, Uganda had no choice.
Social media is off
In a letter to Internet service providers on January 12 seen by Reuters, the Ugandan communications regulator ordered them to block all social media platforms and messaging applications until further notice.
Internet monitoring agency NetBlocks said its data shows that Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Skype, Snapchat, Viber and Google Play Store are among the long list of websites that cannot be accessed by major Uganda mobile phone network operators.
Facebook said on Monday that it had banned a network related to the Uganda Ministry of Information because it used fake and duplicate accounts to post before this week’s election.
The 38-year-old Wine is only half the age of Museveni. In a country where 80% of the population is under 30, he attracts a large number of fans among young people.
Wine is considered the front runner among the 10 candidates who challenged Museveni, who brought stability to the country after the murderous reign of dictators Milton Obote and Idi Amin.
Unacceptable breach of contract
The International Journalism Society, a global media watchdog, called on Uganda to restore social media networks.
It said in a statement: "Any effort to prevent journalists or members of the public from going online is an unacceptable violation of information rights."
South African telecommunications company MTN Group is Uganda's leading mobile operator with a 60% market share. The company said it has complied with the lockdown order and is cooperating with the authorities to limit the scope and duration of the outage.
Wine has been using Facebook to broadcast live coverage of his sports and press conferences because he said that many media organizations refused to receive him. Most radio and television stations are owned by government allies, and Uganda’s main daily newspaper is state-owned.
Since Museveni first became president in 1996, he has won every election, but these elections have been tainted by the intimidation of the opposition and the accusations of manipulating votes.
For the current blockade, a VPN for Uganda is highly recommended to use to enjoy your online freedom.