The Ugandan people are electing today, Thursday, December 14, 2021, their President and parliamentarians. The presidential polls pits the outgoing head of state Yoweri Museveni, 76, against 10 other candidates including Robert Kyagulanyi better known as Bobi Wine, 38, an MP and key figure of the opposition. Unfortunately, Museveni, who still wants to stay in power after 35 years, seems to be preparing a coup. Indeed, despite repeated alerts from human rights and democracy organisations including AfricTivistes, the internet has been cut off throughout the country since January 13rd.

Internet shutdowns as well as blocking social media violate national and international laws. The internet shutdown during the election period violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR). Internet shutdowns are a serious violation of freedom of expression, and democracy. They infringe on fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression, access to information and the right to peaceful assembly, among other rights guaranteed by national, regional and international institutions. In addition to undermining the transparency of the electoral process, internet shutdowns also disrupt the free flow of information and help cover-up some human rights violations that could be exposed to the public.

Museveni relapses with an internet shutting on election day

Earlier, on 12 January, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) ordered Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block social media platforms and messaging apps including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and Playstore Apps, thereby cutting millions of people off from each other and from the world. In addition, the government has also blocked more than 100 virtual private networks (VPNs) - tools to circumvent censorship - making it impossible to bypass the blockages before the shutdown, access information, or exercise freedom of expression and association online. All of these herald an attempted electoral coup.

AfricTivistes strongly condemns the stance of the Ugandan authorities who are hiding behind repressive laws to restrict democracy in the country. We believe that Yoweri Museveni must demonstrate loyalty to the State and revert repressive decisions.

AfricTivistes cannot remain silent in the face of this state of affairs as the internet shutdown is seriously hampering the electoral process. These disruptions undermine the demand for a free and fair election. The authorities’ move merely hides a desire to confiscate the will of Ugandan voters.

AfricTivistes calls on operators to demonstrate accountability and ensure that the Ugandan people have access to an open and secure internet service.

AfricTivistes urges the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to reverse as soon as possible its decision to shut down the internet in the country and unblock the various platforms. We call on the authorities to ensure that the will of the Ugandan people is respected through free and fair elections without intimidation and violation of individual freedoms.