Ugandans are celebrating the return of internet services after a shutdown was imposed ahead of last week’s election. However, social media platforms remain blocked and are only accessible using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). The internet has been returning in stages but so far, social media, the first platforms to get shut down ahead of the elections, are not yet back up and running.
President Yoweri Museveni, who won an unprecedented sixth term in office, and is cruising towards 40 years of uninterrupted ruling, had earlier accused the platforms of being biased towards his party, NRM. While delivering his address to the nation ahead of the elections last week, the President said Facebook refused to heed appeals by the government to unblock his supporters’ accounts. Bobi Wine, on the other hand, as the presidential candidate for the opposition, National Unity Platform, alleged that the poll was marred with fraud.
The internet shutdown elicited widespread criticism and condemnation against the government especially by human rights groups who saw it as an opportunity to intimidate and do away with dissenters. Many users in Uganda reported partial restoration of the internet come Monday, 18 January, with some tech observers noting that full access was yet to be achieved.
Museveni’s growing grip over the internet, both technological and through new laws against “cyber harassment” or “offensive communication,” has enabled his government to limit the effect of the internet as a platform for organising against him.
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