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)