Ugandan authorities have ordered internet service providers in the country to block all social media platforms and messaging applications until further notice ahead of a General Election slated for Thursday, January 14, 2021.
According to AFP News Agency, the order was issued by Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director Irene Sewankambo in a letter addressed to the firms.
“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,” the letter reads.
Already, some Facebook and WhatsApp users have 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.
The latest move comes days after Facebook shut down accounts belonging to Ugandan government officials accused of seeking to manipulate public debate ahead of the Thursday polls.
“This month (January), we shut down a network of accounts and pages in Uganda that were involved in + coordinated inauthentic behavior + aimed at influencing public debate ahead of the election,” Kezia Anim-Addo, Facebook communications manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, told AFP.
“They were using fake or duplicate accounts to manage pages, commenting on other people’s content, posing as users, sharing content in groups to make it appear more popular than it was.”
Among the deleted pages are those of presidential adviser Jennifer Nakangubi also known as Full figure, socialite Ismah Olaxess and an events promoter going by the name Bajjo.
President Yoweri Museveni’s senior press secretary Don Wanyama, who was also affected, accused the company of seeking to influence the election.
“Shame on the foreign forces that think they can aid and plant a puppet leadership on Uganda by disabling online accounts of (ruling party) NRM supporters,” he tweeted.
President Museveni’s government has been accused of frustrating the opposition led by Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine, who is seeking to unseat the president after 34 years in power.
The Member of Parliament for Kyadondo County East constituency is running for presidency on National Unity Platform (NUP) party ticket.