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President Museveni Defends Social Media Shutdown As Criticism Mounts

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has defended a move to block all social media sites and messaging applications as the country heads to elections on Thursday, January 14, 2021.

In a televised speech on Tuesday night, the Head of State, who was dressed in a military jacket, accused tech giant Facebook of arrogance.

While seemingly referring to the choice of candidates in the Thursday polls, Museveni said he would not accept anybody to “play” with the country or decide who is good or bad.

The man who has been accused of ruling Uganda with an iron fist stated that if Facebook was to operate in Uganda, it should be used equitably by everyone.

Uganda’s Communications Commission Executive Director Irene Sewankambo yesterday ordered all internet service providers in the country to block all social media sites and messaging applications hours after Facebook shut down accounts belonging to government officials it accused of seeking to manipulate public debate ahead of this year’s elections.

“Uganda Communications Commission hereby directs you to immediately suspend any access and use, direct or otherwise, of all social media platforms and online messaging applications over your network until further notice,” a letter to the firms read.

By Tuesday morning, some Facebook and WhatsApp users had started complaining of restricted services. They said they could only access the social media sites via a virtual private network (VPN).

Facebook and Twitter were also blocked during the 2016 General Election.

Uganda’s move has been criticized by rights group amid claims that there are plans to rig the elections in favour of Museveni, who has been in power for over 34 years.

Twitter has come out to condemn the shut down saying it violates basic human rights and the principles of an open internet.

“Ahead of the Ugandan election, we’re hearing reports that Internet service providers are being ordered to block social media and messaging apps. We strongly condemn internet shutdowns – they are hugely harmful, violate basic human rights and the principles of the #OpenInternet, ” Twitter said on Tuesday night.

The Micro-blogging site confirmed blocking some accounts early this week that were “targeting” elections in Uganda

“If we can attribute any of this activity to state-backed actors, we will disclose to our archive of information operations, ” Twitter added.

US officials and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have asked Uganda to respect human rights.

President Museveni’s government has been accused of frustrating the opposition led by Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine, who is running for presidency on the National Unity Platform (NUP) party ticket.

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