Uganda’s President urged to protect digital communication
Over 54 organisations, under the auspices of the #KeepItOn campaign, have written to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni urging him to ensure that mobile money and social media platforms, the internet and all other digital communication channels are kept open, secure and accessible throughout the country’s general election.
Uganda goes to the polls on 14 January 2021 and there are eight candidates running for presidency, with Museveni’s main opponent being Bobi Wine.
The letter, copied to all mobile phone operators in Uganda, including MTN and Bharti Airtel, as well as the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), says internet and communications tools play a crucial role in enabling people’s participation in an electoral process and enhance their ability to access information and express themselves freely.
The organisations, including the Committee to Protection Journalists and Africa Open Data and Internet Research Foundation, said the recent request by the UCC to Google to shutdown opposition affiliated YouTube channels further underscores the threat to the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression and access to information which are enshrined in the country’s constitution.
The letter warned that deliberate disruption to digital communications platforms, as well as mobile money transactions, could result in ‘billions in losses’ per day as Uganda’s economy is becoming increasingly dependent on digital communication.
“These actions are alarmingly similar to those tarnishing the 2016 elections when the government of Uganda ordered telecommunications companies to block social media, cut voters off from vital resources and block mobile money transactions which millions of citizens rely on daily. Research has shown that internet shutdowns and violence go hand in hand,” reads an excerpt from the letter.
Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said, “What is happening ties very well with what our intelligence is telling us that some of the opposition is working with foreign interests and this is an element of foreign interests.”