For several hours now, there are reports of heavy social media crackdown ahead of President Museveni’s inauguration March 12 in Kololo, Kampala, Uganda’s capital.
Airtel Uganda, one of the country’s telco told its customers via social media before closure that it had received a notice to temporarily disable the services causing panic and anger among its customers.
“Social Media will be temporarily disabled as per UCC directive,” announced the firm on Twitter. “All our other services are available. We apologize for any inconveniences.”
“Dear Customers, as per UCC directive Social media has been temporarily blocked however all our other services are available. We regret any inconveniences caused,” the firm posted on its Facebook page.
MTN Uganda, the country’s largest telco also shared on its Facebook page the directive showing ‘cooperation’ with the government.
“MTN Uganda wishes to inform its esteemed customers that in line with the requirement of its license specifically article 7.4 that requires MTN to provide assistance to government in the event of an emergency or crisis related to National Security, the Uganda Communications Commission has issued a directive to shut down all social media platforms immediately until otherwise advised by government,” posted MTN Uganda adding that the UCC and other competent government agencies will provide further clarity on the reasons for this directive.
The crackdown came just a few hours after photos and a video of Dr Kizza Besigye’s parallel ‘inauguration’ started circulating on social media causing joy and confusion in equal measure to both the locals and the international community.
The opposition leader Kizza Besigye claims to have won last February’s elections but the NRM government claims it won its 5th term with over 60.8 percent against Besigye’s FDC which garnered just 35.4 percent. Besigye and millions of other Ugandans are against Museveni’s 30 year rule and claim his re-election was rigged and marred with irregularities and violence.
By shutting down access to social media sites, the incumbent government is shutting the voices of the masses to express anger and cause mass protest. The government in February also shut down access to social media sites but users like today turned to VPN’s to express their anger. Access to mobile money and banking was also blocked during elections.
Eve Namara, a popular Kampala based techie and blogger shared on her Facebook status the mood the country is in.
“And we are back to using VPNs again as a result of social media blockage ahead of the President inauguration tomorrow,” Eve posted. ” When it comes to free speech, Uganda knows no such thing. From barring media houses from covering opposition events, to shutting down social media – this has become the new normal. Well, let the VPNs rule. #Uganda.”
Though arrested uncountable times and put under home arrest, Besigye has been the voice of freedom for millions of Ugandans believe those who supported Museveni are his sycophants or are indoctrinated that Uganda would fall into war again if Museveni leaves power. Museveni has been reported severally saying no one has a better vision for Uganda than him.
Besigye was reportedly violently arrested and flown to Kotido Police Station, a district in Northern Uganda, according to latest reports by local media and his families tweets.
Message from family: Dr. @kizzabesigye1 is at Moroto Police Station. Send support for his release
— Kifefe Kizza-Besigye (@kizzabesigye1) May 11, 2016