Authorities in Uganda Monday permitted restoration of internet connection, five days after a total shutdown that blocked communication and digital services amongst over 17.5 million people.
“Of course, we were unable to know several events as they unfolded during elections. Our businesses have been hit hard and the country lost trillions of shillings. Citizen journalism was stifled. The presence of the internet could have made things different,” internet user Stephen Odong, 29, said.
Like Mr Odong, many Ugandans were dismayed and left short of options after Internet services were disenabled on January 13, 2021 ahead of the presidential and legislative elections on January 14.
Unlike the 2016 polls where the cut-off mainly affected mainstream social media platforms, this year's Internet shutdown faced even more disruption but is being restored in what looks like a phased manner.
“I guess my Internet was the last to be powered on. I see some people with status updates made on Sunday night,” Ms Ronashe Praise told Daily Monitor.
Opposition politicians, civil society organizations and human rights groups joined Ugandans in castigating authorities “for restraining communication at a crucial point.’’
Pro-government officials said the longest shutdown in Uganda’s history was occasioned by an existential threat of the platform being a perfect storm for disaster.
“The Internet was a threat and it could have ignited violence,” Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, said on Sunday.
Some Internet users were by 2:30pm on Monday – still unable to access mainstream social media services like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the services only available to those using Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
It is not clear how long restrictions on mainstream social media applications will remain in force.
Arriving from a diplomatic feud between the Kampala government and its international allies, President Museveni on January 12 vowed to indefinitely suspend global tech giants like Facebook- accusing the companies of being arrogant, politically segregative and promoting left wing agenda.
“If it is going to operate in Uganda, it should be used equitably. If they want to operate against NRM, they will not operate in Uganda,” he said.
News about his 58.64% election victory, through a January 14 poll disputed by the opposition was treated to muted Internet and social media streets all through the weekend.
Internet shutdowns have overtime been used by governments during high political seasons in countries like Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia and India.