Social media blocked and opposition arrested in Uganda election

President Yoweri Musuveni who has ruled since 1986 is hoping for a fifth term as Ugandans head to the polls this week. Opposition members have been arrested and social media shut down during the election that can end Musevini's 30-year rule.

Museveni, 71, has held the presidential post since 1986 when his rebel group seized power, ending five years of civil war. In 2005, the constitution was modified so that Museveni to extend his mandatory for a fifth period. Museveni’s main rival is his former doctor, Kizza Besigye, 59, from the FDC party [Forum for Democratic Change]. Besigye served also as a minister in Museveni’s cabinet. Besigye had cut ties with the government, which he describes as 'authoritarian'. It is not the first time Besigye runs for president. He lost in 2001, 2006 and 2011. 

"Preventive arrest" 

Besigye has been detained several times, also during election day on Thursday. Besigye remains still under arrest, together with Party president Mugisha Muntu, Wasswa Birigwa and Ingrid Turinawe.

Andrew Felix Kaweesi, the Kampala Metropoiltan Police acting commander said to Ugandan magazine News Vision that the arrests of FDC presidential candidate was necessary to keep order. "He has been taken to Nagalama police station under preventive arrest and we shall detain him until results are announced tomorrow to prevent him from causing civil disobedience."

The top candidates:

- Yoweri Museveni, 71, has been in power since he won a five-year guerrilla war in 1986. He is one of Africa's longest-serving leaders. His final term was due to end in 2006, but he gained support to modify constitutional term limits and is running his fifth term.

- Kizza Besigye, 59 from Forum for Democratic Change. Veteran opposition leader who has lost the last three elections.

- Amama Mbabazi, 67 from National Resistance Movement. Veteran politician who has served as prime minister, Minister of Defense; Minister of Security and Minister of Justice, all posts under Museveni's government.

“Security measure”

As a “security measure to avert lies”, the government stopped voters from tweeting or updating their Facebook. President Museveni claim about social media that: "Some people misuse those pathways. You know how they misuse them - telling lies.” Whatsapp and mobile money services were also blocked.
A similar shutdown occurred in the 2011 election. This year, many found a way around the social media censorship by entering encrypted private networks. Opposition candidate, Amama Mbabazi even tweeted instructions on how access social media.

Despite of the ban, hashtags like #UgandaDecides and #1986pictures continue to gain popularity. The latter shows in pictures how everything has changed in Uganda in 30 years, except the president.

Official results are expected by Saturday. 

Text by...

Sumbu Temo

27 years old journalist student and dreamer from Stockholm