Social media platforms blocked, VPNs lined up in Uganda ahead of Presidential election

2021 Elections Watch

Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has directed all internet service providers in the country to block access to social media platforms ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections.

In a letter dated Tuesday, January 12, 202, UCC executive director Irene Sewankambo told the internet providers to "immediately suspend" platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp.

According to several social media users that have interacted with this reporter, their social media platforms could not load despite having internet data and paying for the Over The Top (OTT) tax. Many of them have since resorted to using Virtual Private Networks (VPN) in order to access social media.

"I almost cried because I had the data and I paid OTT for the whole month but my WhatsApp was not responding. I sensed we might have been blocked and it worked when I launched my VPN," one user who preferred anonymity to talk freely told this website.

The social media shutdown comes two days before the country goes to the polls this week to vote for presidential and parliamentary candidates.

This is not the first time that social media is shut down in Uganda a few days to the polls as the same was applied in 2016 ahead of the presidential election.

Last week, Minister of Internal Affairs Jeje Odongo told journalists at the Media Centre that the government was considering ways of how to manage the use of social media during elections for the best interest of Uganda's security.

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