Citizens v The Government: Uganda social media blackout

Bobi Wine declares Uganda election fraud “We defeated the dictator”

Women sat on wall in Uganda
Blue Metal Window Grill on Brown Concrete Wall- by Andreas Marquardt

By Lois Barker
Sub-Edited by Jasmine Wing

A nationwide internet blackout for 17.5 million internet subscribers sparked debates over lack of human rights in Uganda, one of the poorest countries in the world.

On Wednesday 13th January at 7pm EST, a total internet shutdown was registered across Uganda and will be in force until further notice. This comes after the Ugandan Communication Commission (UCC) directed telecommunications service providers to switch off all messaging applications and social networks. Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, Viber, Skype and the Google Play Store have all been included. It has been suggested it is linked to the presidential election.

76-year-old President Yoweri Museveni has ruled Uganda without pause since gaining control in 1986. Museveni has defied the political laws of gravity and sidelined his opponents for 35 years. This election saw eleven candidates register to contest in the election and the polls have followed one of the most violent campaigns in years, with harassment and arrests of the opposition, attacks on the media and multitudes of deaths.

Current opponents —most visibly Wine, who spent much of the campaign in a bulletproof vest and combat helmet— were arrested, blocked from rallying and dispersed with tear gas throughout the campaign. Two days of protests in November 2020 have led to the deaths of 54 people.

President Museveni says he is standing for stability and yet the UN, EU, US and global rights and democracy groups have raised concerns about the integrity and transparency of the election.

A major contender, opposition candidate Bobi Wine, legal name Robert Kyagulanyi, believes the internet shut down is being used to block communication and as a way of compromising the vote. Mr Wine has said the election is rigged and not only are people unable to get online but “phone numbers” have been switched off and disconnected illegally.

Nancy Kalembe, the only female candidate in the presidential race, has said “switching off the internet is a clear sign that something is wrong.” “A government that a whole nation does not have freedom of information and freedom of speech. This is a very bad sign.

The internet remained down as the counting continued, provisional results from 39 percent of polling stations gave Yoweri Museveni a wide 62% lead for a sixth term, after almost four decades in power. While Bobi Wine, the Uganda opposition leader trailed with 29 percent after claiming victory and rejecting early results as a “complete sham”. He states he has proof of frauds and irregularities.

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