Internet Blockade And Political Arrests As Uganda Goes To The Polls
In Uganda, social media users woke up on Tuesday to restricted access to their social media channels due to a blockade. Many sought the help of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to access their social media.
This comes less than a week after the government asked the UCC (Uganda Communications Commission) asked all major telecom companies to block access to the iOS AppStore, Google PlayStore, and YouTube.
Last week, Minister of Defense and Veteran affairs Adolf Mwesigye and Internal Affairs minister Gen Jeje Odongo warned journalists that they had been misusing media throughout the campaigns. They would be taught how to use the platforms sooner rather than later.
“We are now having a challenge of citizen journalism. Social media propaganda is certainly not in the best interest of this country’s security. We are looking for a way of dealing with it,” Mr. Mwesigye said on January 8.
Restrictions to social media access is not a new tactic in Uganda during the elections, as the same was deployed during the 2016 elections. This time, incumbent Museveni is seeking re-election and faces stiff competition from musician turned politician Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine, FDC's Patrick Amuriat Oboi. ANT's Mugisha Muntu and 7 others for the top job.
Yesterday, Facebook confirmed the shutdown of various pro-government accounts for what they called inauthentic behavior.
"We removed a network of accounts and pages in Uganda that engaged in CIB (Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour) to target public debate ahead of the election," Facebook's head of communication for sub-Saharan Africa, Kezia Anim-Addo, said.
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) had earlier written to YouTube asking for opposition-leaning accounts to be suspended for spreading a volatile message inciting violence.
Opposition candidate Amuriat has been arrested twice in as many days recently, with security forces saying they were preventing them from gathering crowds when the country saw a rise in positive coronavirus cases.
Kyagulanyi saw above 100 of his team arrested in Kalangala, with many of them paraded in the military court in Makindye. On Tuesday morning, he claims security personnel attacked his home in Magere and arrested his private security detail.