By E K Benj
Updated at 21:40 GMT on Tuesday, 12th January 21.
Ahead of polls on Thursday 14th January, Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in a televised national address has said his government has closed Facebook.
Dressed in a military jacket, Museveni who spoke calmly moments ago (9:30 PM local time) protested the move tech giant took which he says was targeting National Resistance Movement – NRM members on the social media.
Full statement on Facebook Closure.
We therefore do not need lectures and from anybody because there’s nothing we don’t know.
Now, the other day one of the international groups on the social media channel where people spend a lot of time sending messages to one another, even me some months back when I used to have time and interruct with you. That social media, the other day some of the group, I think it’s called Facebook or something like that decided to block the NRM message senders targeting them. Why would anybody do that?
So when I heard about that, I told our people to warn them. Please that social media you’re talking about, its going to operate in Uganda, it should be used equitably by everybody using it. If you want to take sides against the NRM, the other group should not operate in Uganda. Uganda is ours, not anybody else; this Facebook and groups did not respond I hear and am sure the government has closed the social media.
These channels of Facebook, I don’t know which one. It’s unfortunate but unavoidable. No way anybody can play around with the country; to decide who is good, who is bad- distract this one- we can’t accept that.
Therefore, am very sorry about the inconvenience to those who have been using this channel even my self when I used to have time.
I was interacting with the young people, there, but we can not tolerate this arrogance by anybody coming to decide for us who is good, who is bad- that one we cannot accept.
Ugandans are confident, we have everything. Our economy is strong, the army is strong and experienced…go out and vote, nobody will intimidate you. If anyone tries to do so, we shall deal with him. Do not cheat, we have got a clean and stable country where the vote matters.
On Jan. 9 reports emerged that Facebook had disappeared hundreds of accounts associated with president Yoweri Museveni supporters in Uganda. Some of the accounts belong to pro-government online publications while others belong to civil servants and socialites turned Museveni advisers.
Facebook confirmed in a statement to that it carried out the purge because the affected individuals and groups where using the platform to manipulate voters ahead of the elections. The tech giant says it is constantly working to find and put an end to coordinated campaigns that seek to manipulate public debate on the platform through what it calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB).”
“This month, we removed a network of accounts and Pages in Uganda that engaged in CIB to target public debate ahead of the election. They used fake and duplicate accounts to manage Pages, comment on other people’s content, impersonate users, re-share posts in Groups to make them appear more popular that they were,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
Facebook says the operation was linked to the Government Citizen Interaction Centre at Uganda’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology. Duncan Abigaba, a manager at the center was among the first government officials to cry foul about Facebook’s move.
Ealier a Ugandan official accused Facebook of meddling in the East African country’s election after several accounts linked to President Yoweri Museveni’s campaign were removed for alleged inauthentic behavior.
Presidential spokesman Don Wanyama on Monday said that Facebook’s action was evidence of what Ugandan authorities see as outside support of Bobi Wine, the leading opposition candidate.
“Facebook is interfering in the electoral process of Uganda,” he said. “If people wanted to have the evidence of outside interference, now they have it.”
But the move has been criticized by different people, including Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo, who said talk of only one of the side of the political divide (Government) being targeted is justified “because we are not privy to anybody in the Opposition who has been removed”.
“To the contrary, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has written to Facebook [and] to Twitter requesting them to look into the social media accounts of some of the activities of these other people [Opposition] and Facebook has been saying they can’t do so – they can’t suspend them – until they have investigated.
“We are waiting for their investigation,” said Ofwono in an interview at the Media Centre in Kampala.
“On our [Government] side, they didn’t tell us who has complained. They have not told us the nature of the complaint. They have not written, even to say ‘we are going to switch you off’. They have not done so. And so it is a double a standard.
“And that ties very well with what our intelligence is telling us – that some of the Opposition is working with foreign interests and this is an element of foreign interests.”