The day has been very long awaited both by the people of Uganda and the rest of the world. Pitting incumbent President Yoweri Museveni against seven opponents, inclusive of two former close allies Kizza Besigye and Amama Mbabazi, who are seen as viable contenders, its certainly an interesting fight.
Precluded by statements that have anticipated that it will not be a free and fear fight, overshadowed by fears that violence may be unavoidable and just the complete attentiveness of the world to see if indeed Yoweri Museveni will be successful in this bid or if by some miracle, one of the other main contenders will win.
Those of us who were really interested in the elections had logged on to our phones this morning and had been rewarded by images and commentaries of voter lines, Kizza Besigye casting his own vote and places that had the election materials delivered 5 hours late. Our curiosity however seemed threatened a little as social media was blocked in Uganda for the duration of the Presidential elections.
President Yoweri Museveni said that it’s so to prevent people from “telling lies”. Interviewed on TV about the ban, Mr. Museveni said; “Some people misuse those pathways. You know how they misuse them – telling lies…If you want a right then use it properly.” The head of Uganda’s media regulator, Godfrey Mutabazi, earlier said that the block was introduced following a request from the electoral commission, local media reports.
He claimed that it was to make sure the services would not be used to bribe voters.
MTN which is Uganda’s leading mobile operator with about 10 million users, also confirmed its receiving of the order to shut down social media services. So Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and mobile money services have been blocked. This has however not stopped the hashtag #UgandaDecides from trending on Twitter as many people have found ways around the controversial ban.
It’s the 21st century so it was really pretty much expected that people will get around the restrictions, even Mr. Mbabazi found a way and kindly tweeted advice on how to do it for other less tech savvy Ugandans. Basically, a VPN – a Virtual Private Network – gets round government censorship by redirecting internet activity to a computer in a different country. Thanks very much, as we now return to soaking up the progress of the ongoing elections.