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Kyagulanyi, Nancy Kalembe Condemn Internet Shutdown

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This is the first time Uganda is going through a complete blockage of the world wide web during elections. Uganda experienced Social media shutdowns in previous elections. In 2011, authorities instructed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to temporarily block access to Facebook and Twitter for 24 hours and in 2016, authorities ordered telecommunication companies to block social media access on mobile phones.
14 Jan 2021 15:59
A police officer is seen guiding voters in the line at Mukwano Centre polling station in Kampala Central Division. Photo by Olive Nakatudde
Robert Kyagulanyi, the National Unity Platform presidential candidate has condemned the government’s decision to shut down the internet as Ugandans headed to the 2021 general election.

This is the first time Uganda is going through a complete blockage of the world wide web during elections. Uganda experienced Social media shutdowns in previous elections. In 2011, authorities instructed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to temporarily block access to Facebook and Twitter for 24 hours and in 2016, authorities ordered telecommunication companies to block social media access on mobile phones.  

The shutdown which was enforced last evening came moments after President Yoweri Museveni accused Facebook of interfering with the electoral process. This was about the removal of hundreds of Facebook accounts that were run by pro-NRM bloggers in Kampala claiming they were fake and duplicate accounts used to make content appear more popular ahead of the elections.  

In the aftermath, UCC Executive Director Irene Sewankambo ordered telecommunications companies to immediately suspend any access and use of social media and online messaging platforms. Service providers such as Airtel and MTN Uganda subsequently alerted their subscribers about the suspension. 

Speaking to a crowd of reporters from both local and international media, Kyagulanyi said that such efforts make today’s election neither free nor fair.   Kyagulanyi together with his wife, Barbara Itungo cast their vote at around 11 o’clock at Freedom Square located about 500meters from his home at Magere village, Kasangati town Council in Wakiso district.

“Majority of our people are unable to follow what is happening because, besides controlling and gagging mainstream media, the internet is completely switched off.  This is one of the many efforts that Gen. Museveni is doing to make sure that we vote in the dark and the world is in the dark about what is happening in Uganda,” Kyagulanyi said.

Kyagulanyi has also condemned what he called a sustained effort by the security to arrest his party’s coordinators and polling agents across the country. He gave an example of districts such as Moroto, Kwania, Amuria, Lwengo, Bunyagabu, Napak, Kalenga, Kitagwenda, Ntungamo, Kotido Bundibugyo and Lira among others as areas where their people have been arrested.

“In 22 districts, our teams are on the run because they are being pursued by the police and the military as if they are criminals,” Kyagulanyi said. He also expressed concern over the delay in the delivery of ballot materials which he said is going to affect voter turnout.

Meanwhile, Nancy Linda Kalembe, the only female presidential candidate in the 2021 election has faulted the government for switching off the Internet, at  a crucial time when Ugandans are making decisions that impact their wellbeing and their future. 

Kalembe says the media block is a violation of Human rights including those relating to the right to freedom of expression provided under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights., to which Uganda is a state party. 

"It is an abuse of the rights to press, speech and access to information," said Kalembe moments after casting her ballot at Forest Village Road polling station in Bukasa parish in Makindye East constituency. 

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