Uganda bans social media
KAMPALA: Uganda banned social media and messaging apps on Tuesday, two days ahead of a presidential election pitting Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, against opposition frontrunner Bobi Wine, a popular singer.
Users complained on Tuesday that they could not access Facebook and WhatsApp, and social media platforms are widely used for campaigns from all sides ahead of Thursday’s election in the country in East Africa.
In a letter Reuters sent to Internet service providers on January 12, Uganda’s communications regulator ordered them to block all social media platforms and messaging programs until further notice.
The campaign before the vote was damaged by brutal repression of marchers, who according to the authorities broke COVID-19’s curbs at large gatherings. Rights groups believe that the restrictions are the pretext to ensnare the opposition.
At 38 years old, 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, fighting the ruling National Resistance Movement Party.
Wine is seen as the forerunner among ten candidates challenging Museveni, the former guerrilla leader, who took power in 1986 and brought stability to a country following the murderous rule of dictators Milton Obote and Idi Amin.
While security forces intimidated the opposition in previous elections, the run-up to the annual referendum was particularly violent. In November, 54 people were killed when soldiers and police suppressed protests after Wine was detained.
Wine said on Tuesday that soldiers raided his home in Kampala and arrested his guards while giving an interview to a Kenyan radio station. He also said a team member who works primarily as a mechanic was shot dead by the military overnight.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the claims and a military spokesman did not respond to a call.
Patrick Onyango, Kampala’s capital police spokesman, denied that there had been a raid on Wine’s house or that anyone had been arrested, saying: ‘We have just rearranged our security position in the area near his house, and specifically remove some checkpoints