Uganda’s communications authority apparently ordered internet service providers to temporarily close social media and messaging services immediately ahead of the presidential election in the country.
The step comes two days before the country’s presidential election, which will see the opposition leader and famous singer Bobi Wine opposed by one of Africa’s longest-serving rulers, Yoweri Museveni.
Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Executive Director Irene Sewankambo directed telecommunications firms to “immediately suspend all access and use” of social media and online messaging channels in a letter received by news agencies on Tuesday, January 12.
An industry expert who spoke on requested anonymity to the AFP news agency said the order was first conveyed to the telecommunications firms on Tuesday morning in “nasty and aggressive” phone calls.
The order was a reprisal for Facebook banning pro-government accounts for attempting to influence public debate before the main polls on Thursday, the insider said.
Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Signal, and Viber are included in the list of banned social media sites. Some of these, the source said, were already offline on Tuesday.
A list of over 100 virtual private networks was circulated to internet service providers on Monday by the UCC with instructions, according to the insider, to block them.
UCC spokesperson Ibrahim Bbosa told AFP: “I’m not aware of the Internet or social media platform switch-off directive.”
“On the platforms, there was slow connectivity, partly due to heavy traffic as a result of the upcoming elections,” he said.
This comes a day after their Facebook accounts were shut down by a number of Ugandan government officials and ruling party members over claims they are trying to influence public discourse ahead of elections.