Uganda: disputed elections amid net silence

National Unity Platform

Ugandan authorities on Jan. 18¬†allowed restoration of some internet services in the country, five days after a shutdown that hit as last week’s election approached. Connectivity was restored to 90%¬†of ordinary levels following the announcement of the election result‚ÄĒa landslide victory for President Yoweri Museveni, who has held office since 1986. But Ugandans can only access social media via virtual private networks (VPNs). Through VPNs, users can bypass internet censorship by having their IP address appear as if based overseas. However, VPNs are not a panacea, given that governments could take the measure of blocking all overseas IP addresses. “As internet connectivity partly returns to #Uganda, metrics show a similar pattern of extensive social media and messaging restrictions as prior to election day with some new additions. Hence, where service is back it remains less than usable,”¬†NetBlocks, an internet freedom¬†monitoring group, stated on Twitter, where it has implored Ugandan authorities to restore full inet access.

The BBC reported that Museveni is believed by the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) to have shut off internet access¬†“to prevent [the NUP] from sharing evidence of fraud.”¬†The NUP’s claim is rejected by Museveni, who commented that last week’s election might have been the country’s “most cheating-free”¬†election to date.

NetBlocks stated that the internet shutdown left “citizens in an information vacuum,”¬†and non-governmental organization UN Watch sarcastically¬†tweeted, “Congratulations to Uganda President Yoweri Museveni on winning re-election after murdering, imprisoning & silencing opponents, shutting down the internet, and committing widespread voter fraud.”

Opposition candidate and leader of the NUP, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (also known as Bobi Wine), who has rejected the country’s election result, is entitled to challenge it within 15 days following its announcement at the Supreme Court.

From Jurist, Jan. 19. Used with permission.

Photo via Twitter

  1. Will Museveni honor court order on ending house arrest?

    A Ugandan court on Jan. 25 ordered security forces to stop surrounding the home of opposition leader Bobi Wine. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulani, has been under house arrest since the Jan. 14 presidential election.

    In November Wine was detained for allegedly violating the government’s COVID-19 rules by holding political rallies. His detention sparked violent protests in which 37 individuals died. He was released on bail later in November.

    On Jan. 7, Wine asked the International Criminal Court to investigate President Yoweri Museveni, Security Minister Elly Tumwine and eight other senior officials for sanctioning human rights abuses. In the election, Wine ran against incumbent President Museveni. After Wine voted in the election, security forces blocked Wine from leaving his house.

    In the election, Museveni was declared the winner. He had 59% of votes, while Wine had 35%. Wine rejected the results, and he is entitled to challenge the result within 15 days following the announcement of the election results by the Supreme Court. (Jurist)

  2. Uganda military court denies bail for opposition supporters

    The Ugandan General Court Martial in Makindye denied bail for 36 members of the National Unity Platform (NUP) on Feb. 15. NUP leader Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, has requested that the International Criminal Court investigate President Museveni for sanctioning human rights abuses, and recently asked the Ugandan Supreme Court to cancel the Jan. 14 election results, citing unlawful violence and corruption. He has also released a list 243 people he claims were abducted by the government. (Jurist, Anadolu)

  3. Ugandan military sentences soldiers for attack on journalists

    The Ugandan People‚Äôs Defense Forces (UPDF) on Feb. 18¬†sentenced seven soldiers¬†for attacking journalists outside of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights office in Kampala the day before. A spokesperson of the UPDF,¬†called the sentences¬†a “deterrent measure to other members of the force not to engage in acts prejudicial to the good order and discipline of UPDF.”

    Candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, of the National Unity Platform (NUP),¬†went to the UN office¬†to “deliver a petition against the continuing abductions, torture, and murder of [NUP] supporters.”¬†UPDF troops advanced and beat members of the press while the journalists waited for Kyagulanyi. News outlet NTV Uganda¬†shared video footage¬†of a reporter being chased down and caned by military personnel as he pleads with them to stop. (Jurist)

  4. Uganda: Museveni takes oath amid reign of terror

    Uganda‚Äôs Yoweri Museveni was sworn in for his sixth term as president, as police surrounded the home of Bobi Wine, his main opposition rival who decried the inauguration as a “sham.”¬†His victory in January was overshadowed by the bloodiest pre-election crackdown in years, with opposition candidates forcibly prevented from campaigning and dozens of protesters killed by security forces. (Al Jazeera)

  5. Uganda arrests opposition leader, supporters

    Ugandan police¬†conducted a security operation Oct. 5 to quell ongoing protests against the house arrest of opposition leader Bobi Wine, detaining a further 40 for “inciting violence,” including lawmaker Matovu Charles. Wine, leader of the National Unity Platform (NUP), suggested on social media that over 300 people were detained during the operation.

    Ugandan authorities detained Wine and placed him under house arrest upon his arrival back in the country from South Africa the day before, and broke up a rally that had gathered to greet him at te airport. (Jurist)

  6. Uganda opposition leader under house arrest

    Ugandan opposition leader and former presidential candidate Bobi Wine on Jan. 18¬†said¬†that police had surrounded his residence and put him “under house arrest”¬†ahead of opposition protests planned to take place later that day.

    Leaders of the National Unity Platform party, Uganda’s largest opposition party, had planned for demonstrations to take place that day against the poor condition of roads in the country.

    Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, first gained notoriety as an entertainer in Uganda and entered into the world of politics in April 2017 when he announced his candidacy for parliament in the Kyadondo County East constituency, in the East African country’s central region. He later ran for president in the 2021 election with¬†the National Unity Platform party. According to official results, he lost the race to incumbent President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, though Wine claims the result was fraudulent.¬†(Jurist)