Uganda blocks social media ahead of Museveni swearing in

By Omondi Julius Odera, Kampala Uganda

The Ugandan government locked down access to all social media platforms, citing security reasons, as President Museveni took the oath of office for his fifth term this week.

Facebook, twitter and messaging platform WhatsApp were all blocked in Uganda from Wednesday afternoon following concerted efforts by the opposition to push their defiance campaigns on the disputed 18 February elections on social media platforms after being denied coverage from the main media outlets. At around 4pm on Wednesday 11 April, lead Telecom companies issued official communication to their clients via emails and social media that they were ordered by the country’s communication authority (Uganda Communication Commission) to shut down social media sites due to security reasons.

However before the announcement came, many social media users had anticipated the shut down and therefore had started downloading Virtual Private Network (VPN) in order to bypass the security and remain active online.

The government was forced to shut down the social media platforms due to the videos and pictures of the unofficial swearing in ceremony of the Opposition leader Besigye staged earlier in the day shared online. The videos and pictures were received with mixed reactions from the public hence the government shutdown on Social media in order to create order and sanity in the political space.

After the sharing of the videos and pictures the opposition leader went down town Kampala to mobilize his supporters to bring his commonly known defiance campaign to life. However, the security authorities were quickly called in and arrested Besigye while dispersing the supporters with tear gas. Currently the opposition leader is being held in Moroto, the far East of the country.  

Social media has been a widely used platform in Uganda especially during and after the disputed general elections of February. The incumbent who is the president elect has embraced technology bringing on board a team that is responsible for managing and updating his fans on both Twitter and Face book. Mid last year (2015) on the run to the General election campaigns, the Former Prime Minister Amama Mbambazi launched his Presidential bid through YouTube.

The Ugandan government recently banned all media houses in the country from covering any political activities of the lead opposition party Forum for democratic Change. The ban left Kizza Besigye and his supporters with only one option; Social media platforms in order to propagate their defiance campaign disputing the results of the february elections. They became so vocal on social media using all the platforms to mobilize and update their supporters of the parallel swearing in ceremony for their leader.

Before the sharing of the staged swearing in ceremony of the opposition leader, there were other contentious tweets that were shared online. Four days ago, Kizza Besigye on his official Twitter account shared 23 tweets which detailed how elections were rigged according to him. These tweets were shared among the public and even made lead stories in some dailies in Uganda and as a result increased polarizing of the country politically.

It is the second time that social media is being blocked in Uganda this year.  Earlier this year In February 18 during the general election period, all the social media platforms together with Mobile money Transfer services were blocked by UCC citing security reasons.


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