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Candidates, CSOs Criticize Government over Internet Shut Down

Internet was cut off last night just a day after President Kaguta Museveni told the country that they had disabled social media after Facebook blocked accounts of a number of National Resistance Movement-NRM supporters and influencers. Facebook accused them of using their platform to spread propaganda and influence the Election.

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Members of the public, candidates and civil society organisations have criticized government for shutting down the internet as the country conducts elections today.  

Internet was cut off last night just a day after President Kaguta Museveni told the country that they had disabled social media after Facebook blocked accounts of a number of National Resistance Movement-NRM supporters and influencers. Facebook accused them of using their platform to spread propaganda and influence the Election. 

Shamim Malende, the National Unity Platform-NUP candidate for Kampala Woman Member of Parliament seat has described as panic the act of shutting down the internet by government.  

Malende says the acts of government reveal how scared they are of change and said the people have cast their ballot to change the situation and do away with such injustice. Malende made the comments after voting at Homisdallen Primary school in Kyebando, a Kampala suburb.   

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NUP had launched a mobile application, the U Vote to use in reporting Election events, results and keep track of events as they unveil. But without the internet, the relevance of the all is lost. Malende, who is also one of the lawyers of the party says they have asked supporters to protect their vote despite the disruptions. 

She says the government has made several efforts to frustrate their vote by abducting agents and confiscating appointment letters of some of their agents but they still have found Ugandans to volunteer to act as agents. 

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Latif Sebaggala, the incumbent Member of Parliament Kawempe North says it's a shame for government to frustrate her citizens by shutting down the internet. He says a number of internet-enabled activities like Mobile Money services are off which has affected people since they cannot send nor receive money. 

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Dorothy Mukasa, the Executive Director of Unwanted Witness, a non-government organisations that seek to promote the rights to and on the internet says it paints a bad image of the country when the internet is shut down.

Mukasa says unlike the 2016 shutdown where only social media was affected, this year's the shutdown is very alarming because all the internet service have been cut off putting the country on a standstill.   She says people's rights have been trampled on, not just because they access the internet but also because some who use the internet to earn a living cannot work now.  

She says the Uganda Communications Commission -UCC issued a statement to communicate the suspension but didn't even say for how long. She is concerned that people's rights shall continue to be affected. She further says this affects the credibility of the Election.    

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Bob Kiija, The Director of Innovations for Democratic Engagement and Action (IDEA) says shutting down internet casts doubt on the motive of government. He says observers cannot easily send messages and report proceedings of the Election exercise because they don't have internet. 

Kiija says anyone interested in the affairs of government should be asking, what they are hiding. Kiija says the shutdown has affected different sectors but most immediately affected the credibility of the process. 

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Earlier this week, government disabled social media and many youths immediately ran to install VPN applications to save the situation as it were in 2016.

However when the whole internet was disabled since last night, many were left without access. They say what Government has done is infringe on their rights and bar them from following the election activities as they unfold in the country.