An unspecified number of Facebook accounts believed to be aligned or believed to be friendly with the ruling National Resistance Movement [NRM] were on January 9 blocked with some pages permanently unpublished or deleted on Facebook.
“Shame on the foreign forces that think they can aid and plant a puppet leadership on Uganda by disabling online accounts of NRM supporters. You won’t take away President Kaguta Museveni,” senior presidential press secretary Don Wanyama remarked.
Wanyama’s statement cements an NRM electoral campaign period tainted by accusations that opposition activities in the country have overtime been propagated with backing from foreigners who according to President Museveni, “stand no chance.”
Mr Wanyama called for the intervention of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) which is Uganda's overall communications regulator.
"Big techs like @Twitter & @Facebook are being used by opponents of @NRMOnline to stifle pro-NRM voices in Uganda. They should "unfreeze" accounts they froze yesterday & today. We pray @UCC_Official is watching & can act to ensure a fair digital playfield. #StopTechcolonisation," Mr Wanyama tweeted.
Frank Tumwebaze, the Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development called for the unblocking of the pro-NRM accounts immediately.
"Plz, @ITU @ITUSecGen one of the threats we must speak against in our digital ecosystem is this abuse of communication platforms by tech giants. Connectivity shdn't be a right to enjoy at the mercy of Tech giants.@Facebook shd unblock selectively targeted #Ugandan accounts ASAP!" Mr Tumwebaze who is also a former ICT minister tweeted.
Tumwebaze tagged Mr Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union and the Secretary-General of the UN ICT agency, that has interest in connecting the world through #spectrum management, brokering #standards + bridging the #DigitalDivide.
Several people whose accounts have been blocked have come out to point out the unfairness by Facebook and highlighting the fact that Bobi Wine is sponsored by foreign agents including tech giants like Facebook, diplomats among others.
Popular blogger Ashburg Kato, said Facebook had deleted his accounts based on a request by opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) party presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine and his ‘aides’.
“Facebook itself deleted our accounts on the request of Bobi Wine's handlers,” Kato tweeted.
His rant further contends a call to action against Facebook from the president.
“We request President Kaguta Museveni to shut down the entire Facebook in Uganda,” Kato said.
Several online media houses including The Kampala Post and ChimpReports also had their Facebook accounts suspended for 30 days pending review. It is not clear why the online media houses' facebook accounts were suspended despite doing their journalistic work.
Some of the pages belonging to NRM members include that of presidential adviser Jennifer Nakangubi aka Full Figure, socialite Ismah Olaxess and events promoter Bajjo.
Several other users who are not linked to the government or rarely used their Facebook and Instagram pages had their accounts also deleted.
Titus Magoba, a doctor, said, “I am apolitical. I woke up to find my account was gone.”
Other Ugandans have urged UCC to block Facebook in retaliation for their actions.
Despite the calls for an explanation, Facebook is yet to issue a statement on the deletion and suspension of the accounts that are estimated to be in their thousands.
Users affected by Facebook’s actions are being told: "Your account was disabled on Jan 9, 2021. If you think your account was disabled by mistake you can submit more information via the Help Center for up to 30 days after your account was disabled. After that, your account will be permanently disabled and you will no longer be able to request a review."
Uganda decides who their president will be for the next five-year term on January 14, 2021, with incumbent President Museveni in the race against nine other males and one female.