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Uganda Blocks Facebook From Interfering With Its Elections

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Uganda Blocks Facebook From Interfering With Its Elections: Uganda’s communications regulator ordered telecoms operators in the country to suspend all internet gateways from Wednesday evening until further notice, South African telecoms company MTN Group said.

The blackout came on the eve of a presidential election in which long-time leader Yoweri Museveni is facing an opposition galvanised by popular singer Bobi Wine, despite a campaign marked by brutal crackdowns.

Ugandans reported difficulties accessing the internet via mobile devices and wireless connections on Wednesday evening and internet monitor NetBlocks said on Twitter that the country was experiencing a nationwide blackout from 7 p.m. (1600 GMT).

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“I can confirm that MTN Uganda and all Licensed Telecommunication Operators in the country have received a directive from Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to implement a suspension of the operation of all internet Gateways and associated access points,” Nompilo Morafo, MTN’s group executive for corporate affairs told Reuters.

UCC spokesman Ibrahim Bbossa did not respond to phones calls and messages requesting comment.

MTN Uganda (MTNU) is Uganda’s leading mobile operator with 60% of the market.

“MTNU will continue engaging with the relevant stakeholders to limit the duration of the service disruption,” Morafo said.

The internet ban came day after Uganda banned all social media and messaging apps ahead of the vote, which the president said was in retaliation for Facebook taking down some pro-government accounts.

The Back Story

Facebook said Monday it had removed a network of accounts and pages linked to Uganda’s information ministry.

The ministry, used the fake accounts to “manage pages, comment on other people’s content, impersonate users, re-share posts in groups to make them appear more popular than they were,” Facebook said in a statement.

Uganda is holding presidential election on Thursday.

Long-time leader Yoweri Museveni is facing a challenge from opposition frontrunner Bobi Wine, a pop-star turned politician.

Although Museveni is currently ahead in polls, he sees Wine as a threat to his 34-year rule of the East African country.

“Given the impending election in Uganda, we moved quickly to investigate and take down this network,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

The run-up to the election has been violent, with government security forces using tear gas and live bullets to disperse opposition rallies, killing dozens.

Uganda government decries ‘interference’

Presidential spokesman Don Wanyama told the Associated Press that Facebook was “interfering in the electoral process of Uganda,” adding that the removal of the accounts was evidence of outside support for Wine.

Wanyama added that Facebook reportedly blocked the accounts of Museveni campaigners, especially those who communicate in the local Luganda language.

Museveni has accused the popular singer, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, of being an agent of “outsiders, homosexuals and others who don’t like the stability and independence of Uganda.”

“Everything we do, we do legally,” Wine told DW Monday, adding that campaigning and free and fair elections are guaranteed under Ugandan law.

Wine and other opposition figures have called the 76-year-old Museveni a dictator, who has ruled without any opposition since 1986.

Museveni, Wine claims, has destroyed institutions and taken control of parliament and the judiciary.

“President Museveni hates to lose, and yet he is doing everything that makes him lose.”

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