Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday evening confirmed the shutdown of social media channels in the country ahead of Thursday’s General Election.
Earlier on Tuesday, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the country’s communication governing body, denied allegations of imposing restrictions on communication channels. It said it had not been given any directive to disrupt social media or slow down the internet.
The UCC is mandated by law to regulate the communications sector.
The President apologised for inconveniences caused to social media users and blamed the shutdown on social media platforms that blocked accounts of National Resistance Movement (NRM) supporters.
On Monday, Facebook said it had shut a slew of accounts belonging to Ugandan government officials accused of seeking to manipulate public debate ahead of elections.
While delivering his address to the nation ahead of the Thursday polls, Mr Museveni said Facebook refused to heed the appeals by the government to unblock his supporters’ social media pages. Following Facebook's refusal, the government then shut down the internet, he said.
“Why would anybody do that? When I heard about that, I told our people to warn them…That social channel you are talking about, if it’s operating in Uganda, it should be used equitably by everybody who wants to use it. If you want to take sides against the NRM, then that group will not operate in Uganda. Uganda is ours, it’s not anybody’s…And I am sure government has closed the social media.
“There is no way anybody can come [here] and play around with our country and decide who is good [and] who is bad. I’m therefore very sorry about the inconvenience to those who have been using this channel.
“We cannot tolerate the arrogance of anybody coming [here] to decide for us who is good and who is bad,” the president added.
Most Ugandans who are not using Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to access the internet, on Tuesday woke up to find their social media channels, especially Facebook and WhatsApp, switched off, something that confirmed the fears last week that the government would shut down the internet ahead of the election.
Mr Museveni, who is seeking to extend his 35-year rule, urged Ugandans to go out and vote in big numbers without fear or intimidation and vowed to deal with violence mongers. He also warned against cheating and boasted of a strong army, economy and stable country where the vote matters.