Telecom Giant MTN Uganda has today confirmed that communications regulator, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), directed them to suspend social online activity over their platform.
This revelation comes barely 24 hours to much-anticipated elections and 24 hours after Ugandans took to the same social media platforms to announce to the world and all who cared to listen that social media access was restricted. Access was on Tuesday, restricted to Airtel and MTN users as internet service providers, and as the day went on, Africell subscribers joined the train.
Ironically, MTN’s statement to confirm the shutdown was shared on Facebook.
MTN Uganda informs its esteemed customers and other stakeholders that National Telecommunication Operators in the country have received a directive from Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to suspend access immediately and use, direct or otherwise, of all social media platforms and online messaging applications over the network until further notice.
MTN say the duly implemented as directed and will continue engaging with all stakeholders to get a clear picture on how long this ban will last.
This is not the first time Ugandans have been subjected to such shutdowns, as this was the case in 2016 during the general elections. It is also prudent to note that Facebook did suspend pro-government and NRM leaning pages and accounts citing inconsistent behavior. This led to pleas from the affected and other NRM stalwarts calling for access shutdown of Facebook in the country.
“This month, we removed a network of accounts and pages in Uganda that engaged in CIB (Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour) to target public debate ahead of the election,” Facebook’s head of communication for sub-Saharan Africa, Kezia Anim-Addo, said in an email.
“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 in the wake of the shut down.