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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Uganda blocks social media for 'security reasons', polls delayed over late voting material delivery

Social media sites in Uganda blocked for 'security concerns' as voters go to the polls. Photo/COURTESY
Social media sites in Uganda blocked for 'security concerns' as voters go to the polls. Photo/COURTESY

Uganda has shut down Internet services and mobile money transfer citing security reasons as voters cast their ballots in the ongoing general elections.

The Uganda Communications Commission said it blocked social media sites following complaints from the Uganda Electoral Commission that the platforms were being used to campaign despite campaigns officially ending on February 16, a day to the polls.

Reports from the land-locked East African country are that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are most affected with people unable to user WhatsApp as well.

However, various posts on Twitter suggest that some users have found a way to bypass the blocked internet service by using a virtual personal network (VPN).

A Twitter account associated with former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi is among those directing voters to download VPN applications from Google Play Store to be able to communicate on the ongoing exercise.

The UCC had cautioned against what it termed as "potential of disturbing peace and stability" in the use of broadcast and social media in the run up to and during the elections.

The commission warned that it would "invoke its regulatory powers to sanction" social media users and media houses in breach of minimum requirements posted on its website on February 15, days before the election.

UCC said access to the social media platforms will be unblocked after the security situation is assessed.

Meanwhile, multiple reports have faulted the Ugandan Electoral Commission for late provision of ballot papers in several polling stations across the country.

Voters have been locked out of other polling stations more than four hours after the exercise was set to kick off.

In some polling centers, polling stations and ballot boxes have been improvised as reported by Red Pepper on its Facebook page.

Presidential Candidate #Mabirizi casts his Vote #UgandaDecides

Posted by RED Pepper UG on Thursday, 18 February 2016

Police patrol cars were seen on the streets as voters thronged various stations to cast their vote on the leader of their choice.

On Wednesday, reports emerged that some candidates formulated a way to interfere with the polls.

According to Uganda’s Electoral Commission, there were plans by some candidates to print similar ballot papers and pre-tick and display them to the media in a bid to discredit the elections.

Opposition candidates including Kizza Besigye of Forum for Democratic Change and former Prime Minister and independent candidate Amama Mbabazi expressed their reservations over the transparency of the elections.

The election is expected to be one of the toughest yet for Museveni, 71, who came to power in 1986 after waging a five-year guerrilla war.

Critics say voters have grown impatient with high unemployment and the poor state of the country's schools and health centres, giving fresh life to Museveni's challengers.

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