Ugandans are voting in a presidential election today. They’re also dealing with a social media blackout orchestrated by the government. For President Yoweri Museveni, nothing says “democracy” like sweeping censorship of the electorate. Here’s hoping he loses.
This election is mired in rigging allegations. Museveni’s primary competitor, Kizza Besigye, has openly questioned whether the election is free and fair. Besigye was arrested today as he investigated reports of ballot stuffing. According to the BBC, Museveni said the social media ban was to prevent people from “telling lies”.
Museveni is running for a fifth term in office, attempting to extend a 30-year stretch as president. The last time he made major international headlines, it was for tightening anti-gay laws and declaring that homosexuals “are disgusting” in 2014. He also released a rap single once, unfortunately.
Social media blockage is temporary. It was done because some people misuse these rights -Museveni #UgandaDecides
— NTV UGANDA (@ntvuganda) February 18, 2016
Ugandans quickly found ways around the block, using virtual private networks (VPNs) to access social media.
This situation is similar to what happened when the Turkish government attempted to ban Twitter — the gesture was largely ineffectual.
When you have been blocked to tweet, so you tweet about being blocked to tweet. #UgandaDecides
— FLAVIA (@Mizzflav) February 18, 2016
Image: AP / Ben Curtis