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UCC “switches off” social media in Uganda on polls day

Uganda Communications Commission UCC has finally come out to explain the very poor internet access that hit the country from midnight to the start of polling day 7.00am February 18 – and later. They switched it off, they said.

Many people found it difficult to access social media, especially Facebook, twitter and WhatsApp.

UCC's Mutabazi confirmed why social media was off in Uganda as voting started

UCC boss Godfrey Mutabazi told NTV that they had acted because of a breach on the deadline for campaigns. According to Uganda Electoral Commission regulations, campaigns ended on Tuesday.

Mutabazi said many parties breached this and took their campaigns onto social media, the Electoral Commission asked them to act. Godfrey Mutabazi is the current Executive Director of Uganda Communications Commission.

This was immediately contradicted by the EC PRO Jotham Taremwa who said their commission had not asked the UCC to take any action, and they should not be asked to explain the social-media blackout. “EC doesnot instruct UCC, please refer this issue to UCC.”

Leading Ugandan telecom MTN on their part came out with statement. “The UCC has directed MTN to disable all Social Media and MobileMoney services due to a threat to Public Order and Safety.”

Mutabazi explained.

The Uganda Communications Commission is a body Corporate established under Section 4 of the Uganda Communications Commission Act, No. 1 of 2013 to regulate the telecommunications, radio, television and postal and courier services industry in Uganda.

UPDATE February 20, 2016

Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda has reassured the country that social media platforms and mobile money servery will be restored now that the elections are over.

Briefing the media on Saturday at the Prime Minister’s Office in Kampala, Rugunda said “There had been reports that some elements had been planning to create violence and mayhem [ahead of the general elections]. So government decided to take some specific steps to ensure that the country is secure.”

PM Rugunda. FILE PHOTO

“Social media and mobile money services should be restored any time from now. Gov’t will be able to handle any distortions that may arise from the social media now that the main part of the elections is done.”

UPDATE February 22, 2016

President Yoweri Museveni explained that due to security concerns about violence, social media was “switched off” and warned that the blockade should sound as a warning to what the state can do to maintain order.

By 7pm, social media had been turned on again with Ugandans creating a buzz about the elections on whatsapp, twitter and facebook.

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