The Ugandan government on Tuesday ordered all internet service providers, 48 hours before the general elections to be held on Thursday, to block access to social networks and the most popular instant messaging apps, like Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter, until further notice.
The executive director of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), Irene Kaggwa Sewankambo, made the request in a letter leaked by the press.
Although the UCC spokesman did not answer Efe’s phone calls to confirm the letter’s authenticity, users across the country reported constant interruptions in their connection since morning.
In a country where 80% of the population is under 30 years old and less than 40% are now active Internet users, social networks played a considerable role in expanding the popularity of the main opponent, the musician Bobi Wine.
At 38, half of the current president (Yoweri Museveni, 76), popular songs and offending speeches, Wine promised millions of followers a “new and free Uganda where anyone can be at odds with those in power”.
Museveni, in power since 1986 and seeking a sixth re-election, describes the opponent and his supporters as “agents of chaos” that need to be fought.
Ugandan authorities, who have made more than 34,000 polling stations available across the country, have pledged to take firm action against “rioters”, which is why many fear the elections will be hampered by outbreaks of violence.
At least 54 people were killed in mid-November in the capital, Kampala, and in other Ugandan cities, when police dispersed the mass protests against Wine’s arrest.