The government ordered Uganda communications commission to block all social media sites and news/messaging applications until further notice.
Uganda on Tuesday banned the use of social media and news/messaging apps, two days before the presidential election, pushing one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, Yoweri Museveni, against popular singer turned politician Bobi Wine.
- The government ordered Uganda communications commission to block all social media sites.
- According to a Facebook spokesperson, users are having difficulty accessing the platform.
- In addition to being banned in Uganda, Facebook has also been banned in Korea and China.
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Users complained on Tuesday that Facebook and WhatsApp, which have been widely used social media sites to campaign for all parties in Uganda ahead of Thursday’s election, could not be reached.
In a letter seen by Reuters News Agency to Internet service providers dated January 12, the government ordered Uganda communications commission to block all social media sites and news/messaging applications until further notice.
Officials say the campaign is being preceded by brutal repression at opposition rallies, which breaks the COVID-19 barrier at large rallies. Rights groups say the restrictions are an excuse to confuse the opposition.
At 38, Bobi Wine is half the age of President Yoweri Museveni and has attracted a large following among young people in a country where 80% of the population is under 30, sparking the ruling National Resistance Movement party.
Wine is considered to be one of the top 10 candidates challenging the incumbent Museveni, who seized power in 1986 and brought stability to a country after the assassinating regimes of dictators Milton Obote and Idi Amin.
Despite security forces intimidating opponents in previous elections, voting this year has been particularly violent. In November, 54 people were killed as troops and police quelled protests after Wine was detained.
Bobi Wine home raided
On Tuesday, Bobi Wine said in an interview with Kenya radio station Hot 96 FM that soldiers raided his home in Kampala and arrested his guards. He also said that a team member who works mainly as a mechanic was shot dead by the army overnight.
Patrick Onyango, a police spokesman in the capital Kampala, denied that Kyagulanyi’s home had been raided or that no arrests had been made: “We are reorganizing our security posture in the area near his home, especially removing some checkpoints.”
The government has made it clear to Ugandan telecommunications industry executives that social media is being blocked in retaliation for Facebook blocking some pro-government accounts.
Neither the Ugandan Communications Commission spokesman nor government spokesman Ofwono Opondo responded to calls for comment from Reuters News Agency. An aide to Information Minister Judith Nabakooba said she could not be reached for comment.
The social media company Facebook through Kezia Anim-Addo, head of communications for sub-Saharan Africa said on Monday that a network in Uganda was linked to the country’s Ministry of Information using fake and duplicate accounts ahead of the election this week.
According to a Facebook spokesperson, users are having difficulty accessing the platform.
“Any attempt to block online access to journalists or members of the public is unacceptable to the right to information,” the International Press Watch, a global media watchdog, said in a statement.
Wine has been using Facebook to broadcast live of his campaigns and news conferences, following reports that several media outlets have refused to air him. Most radio and television stations are owned by government allies and run by Uganda’s leading daily government.
Museveni, 76, has won every election since his first presidential election in 1996, although he has been tainted by intimidation of opposition parties and allegations of vote-rigging.
Uganda is considered a Western ally, a future oil producer and a stabilizing force in a region where war has affected some neighbouring countries. It also contributes to the largest group of African Union troops fighting Islamist insurgents in Somalia.
The EU did not stop election observers from consulting with previous observers on how to justify the elections, the camp ambassador to Uganda said. The African Union will sustain the audience.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Bobi Wine and two opposition candidates – Patrick Amuriat and Gen.Mugisha Muntu – urged voters to “defend their votes” by staying at the polling stations.
How to access Facebook in Uganda
In addition to being banned in Uganda, Facebook has also been banned in North Korea, China and Iran.
Despite the ban, there are still some ways to access Facebook and other blocked sites in Uganda. Below are three options.
- Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are essential for travellers and foreigners living in Uganda. Although VPNs are sometimes blocked and difficult to use, foreigners say they are available. For reliable connections, it is recommended to secure multiple VPN subscriptions before entering Uganda, and consider that traffic is always monitored.
- The proxy website is another option, however, these can be tracked.
- Setup VPN extension lets users browse anonymously. With over 100 servers spread across the globe, SetupVPN allows you to access any content not available in your country, organization, or school. Change your location, encrypt your link and change your IP address. No technical knowledge required.