Uganda's leader says social media shut down ahead of polls

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Bobi Wine, during a Press conference in Kampala Uganda, Tuesday, Jan.12, 2021. Opposition figures in Uganda cited widespread violence perpetrated by the security forces ahead of presidential election on upcoming Thursday, including an alleged dawn attack Tuesday on the residence of main presidential challenger Bobi Wine. (AP Photo/nicholas bamulanzeki )

KAMPALA – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said Tuesday that his government has shut down social media ahead of a tense election on Thursday, accusing Facebook and unnamed outside groups of “arrogance” after the social network this week removed Ugandan accounts linked to his reelection campaign.

“That social channel you are talking about, if it is going to operate in Uganda, it should be used equitably by everybody who wants to use it,” Museveni said of Facebook in a national address. “If you want to take sides against the (ruling party), then that group will not operate in Uganda.”

Museveni, dressed in a military jacket, said he was “sure the government has closed social media" and apologized to Ugandans for what he called an inconvenience.

Facebook on Monday said it had removed a network of accounts and pages that “used fake and duplicate accounts to manage pages, comment on other people’s content, impersonate users, re-share posts in groups to make them appear more popular than they were." The network was linked to a government ministry, it said.

There was no immediate Facebook statement in response to the president's comments.

Many Ugandans said Tuesday that Facebook and WhatsApp were not working. Twitter also appears to have been affected.

There are fears the internet will be shut down on polling day.

“This is unfortunate but it is unavoidable. There is no way anybody can come around and play with our country, to decide who is good, who is bad. We cannot accept that," Museveni said, adding that he “cannot tolerate this arrogance.”