Facebook users in Uganda have reported the inability to access the social media app as the country braces for a tense election that has been marred with violent campaigns.
On Tuesday morning, just two days to the general elections, users said they could only access the social media site through a virtual private network (VPN).
This comes days after the Ugandan government through the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) reportedly ordered all major telecom companies to block access to the iOS AppStore, Google Play Store and YouTube.
However, the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) spokesperson, Ibrahim Bbosa said the slow internet may be attributed to heavy online traffic, millions of people around the world are interested in the elections.
“So far, there is no directive to switch off the internet.
If there are instances of misuse, the means of communication may be restricted. The slow internet could be a result of too much traffic online because many people around the world are interested in the elections,” Bbosa said.
Last week, the Minister of Defense and Veteran affairs Adolf Mwesigye and his Internal Affairs Counterpart Gen Jeje Odongo, told journalists in the capital Kampala, that government was working on the best possible ways to manage social media which they claimed has been misused in this election.
“We are now having a challenge of citizen journalism. Social media propaganda is certainly not in the best interest of this country’s security. We are looking for a way of dealing with it,” Mwesigye said on January 8.
The complaint by Facebook users in Uganda comes a day after the social media giants on Monday confirmed that it had shutdown certain accounts belonging to Ugandan government officials accused of seeking to manipulate public debate ahead of Thursday’s general elections.
“This month, we removed a network of accounts and pages in Uganda that engaged in Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour to target public debate ahead of the election,” Facebook’s head of communication for sub-Saharan Africa, Kezia Anim-Addo, said.
“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 than they were.”
Anim-Addo said the network was linked to the ministry of information and communications technology.
“Given the impending election in Uganda, we moved quickly to investigate and take down this network.”
Facebook has come under increasing scrutiny over the content they allow to spread on their networks.
This is the second election where Facebook users in Uganda will be denied access to the app.
In 2016, access to Facebook and Twitter were blocked by the government before former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi who was then running against Mr Museveni popularized VPN.
Ugandans head to the polls on Thursday for presidential and parliamentary elections after a tense and bloody campaign, with President Museveni, 76, facing a stiff opposition from the popstar-turned-politician Bobi Wine, 38.