The Ugandan government has ordered internet service providers to shut down social media and messaging apps two days ahead of a presidential election that places Yoweri Museveni, one of world’s longest-serving president in an intense run against a 38-year-old opponent, Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.
As contained in the letter sighted by news agencies on Tuesday, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Executive Director Irene Sewankambo ordered telecommunications companies to “immediately suspend any access and use” of social media and online messaging platforms.
Following the order, users have been unable to access the platforms which have also served as media of campaigning, particularly by the supporters of Wine and government officials to undermine the electoral process ahead of the polls.
According to an industry insider who spoke to AFP news agency on condition of anonymity, the order was first communicated in “nasty and aggressive” phone calls to the telecommunications companies on Tuesday morning.
It was said that the call was retaliation for Facebook deleting pro-government accounts for seeking to manipulate public debate before Thursday’s key polls.
The list of banned social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Signal and Viber.
In all the build-up to the polls, campaigning has heavily been marred by brutal crackdowns on opposition rallies, which the authorities say break COVID-19 curbs on large gatherings but rights groups refuted, noting that the restrictions are a pretext for muzzling the opposition.
The election is a highly staked one in the 35 years rule of Museveni where his main challenger, Wine of the other 10 candidates, seems to be gaining popularity.
While security forces have intimidated the opposition at previous elections, the run-up to this year’s vote has been especially violent. In November, 54 people were killed as soldiers and police quelled protests after Wine was detained.
The opposition figure on Tuesday complained that his Kampala home was raided some tow days ago and two security guards attacked.
But the police have rejected the claims.
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