Uganda shuts down social media ahead of election
Uganda’s communications regulator has ordered the shutdown of social media and messaging applications, ahead of a highly-charged election on Thursday.
The vote will come after one of the bloodiest campaigns in years, as veteran leader Yoweri Museveni seeks a sixth term against popstar-turned-MP Bobi Wine, who has managed to fire up a youthful population that has mostly known only one president.
Wine, who has spent most of the campaign in a bulletproof vest and combat helmet facing teargas, bullets and numerous arrests, on Tuesday urged his supporters to “protect” the election from rigging.
Despite the 38-year-old’s popularity, few observers believe he can pull off a victory against Museveni, a 76-year-old former rebel leader who has ruled since 1986 and effectively crushed any opposition.
Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter were down in the East African nation on Tuesday, after the communications regulator ordered a social media shutdown.
In a letter seen by AFP, Uganda Communications Commission executive director Irene Sewankambo ordered telecommunications companies to “immediately suspend any access and use” of social media and online messaging platforms.
An industry insider who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said that the order was first communicated in “nasty and aggressive” phone calls to the telecommunications companies on Tuesday morning.
The calls made it clear the order was retaliation for Facebook deleting pro-government accounts for seeking to manipulate public debate ahead of the election.
Facebook said Monday that the accounts were linked to the ministry of information and technology.