The Government of Uganda has partially restored access to social media, a month after it was blocked.
Mr Peter Ogwang, State Minister for ICT and National Guidance, said in a tweet on Wednesday, “Internet and Social media services have been fully restored. We apologize for the inconveniences caused, but it was for the security of our country. Let’s be constructive, NOT destructive consumers/users of social media.”
However, access to Facebook and Instagram remained inaccessible.
“Roke Telkom would like to inform you that UCC has permitted Social Media platforms to be reconnected today with an exception of Facebook,” one telecom company stated in an email to its customers.
Disruption of internet access in Uganda started on 9 January with app stores. Shortly thereafter, internet service providers removed access to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and instant messaging platforms WhatsApp and Telegram. On the eve of Uganda’s 2021 presidential and parliamentary election, the entire country was disconnected from the internet.
President Yoweri Museveni defended the shutdown of social media platforms in a 12 January 2021 address. He said it was a response to Facebook’s decision to de-platform several people linked to the ruling NRM party. Facebook said the accounts were engaged in “manipulating public debate ahead of the elections.”
Mr Museveni said: “If that social channel is going to operate in Uganda, it should be equitably used by everybody who has to use it. If you want to take sides against NRM, then you cannot operate in Uganda. We cannot tolerate this arrogance of anybody coming to decide for us who is good and who is bad.”
Furthermore, several government officials accused some members of the opposition of using social media and the internet to mobilise and call for riots.
Partial access to the internet was restored after the election on Monday 18 January 2021, but social media platforms remained blocked and could only be accessed using Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
Nonetheless, President Museveni and half of his 28-member cabinet remained active on social media despite the ban. Daily Monitor, Monday, reported that only 10 of them neither tweeted nor posted anything on Facebook during the shutdown period.