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Facebook shuts down Uganda government accounts

January 11, 2021

The social media platform says Uganda's information ministry used fake accounts to "target public debate" ahead of elections.

Yoweri Museveni nad Bobi Wine
Long-time President Yoweri Museveni faces a challenge from singer-turned-politician Bobi Wine

Facebook said Monday it had removed a network of accounts and pages linked to Uganda's information ministry.

The ministry, used the fake 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," Facebook said in a statement.

Uganda is holding presidential election ons Thursday.

Long-time leader Yoweri Museveni is facing a challenge from opposition frontrunner Bobi Wine, a pop-star turned politician. Although Museveni is currently ahead in polls, he sees Wine as a threat to his 34-year rule of the East African country. 

"Given the impending election in Uganda, we moved quickly to investigate and take down this network," a Facebook spokesperson said.

The run-up to the election has been violent, with government security forces using tear gas and live bullets to disperse opposition rallies, killing dozens

Ugandan opposition figure Bobi Wine
Singer-turned-lawmaker Bobi Wine's star power has rattled Uganda's ruling partyImage: Abubaker Lubowa/REUTERS

Uganda government decries 'interference'

Presidential spokesman Don Wanyama told the Associated Press that Facebook was "interfering in the electoral process of Uganda," adding that the removal of the accounts was evidence of outside support for Wine. 

Wanyama added that Facebook reportedly blocked the accounts of Museveni campaigners, especially those who communicate in the local Luganda language.

Museveni has accused the popular singer, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, of being an agent of "outsiders, homosexuals and others who don't like the stability and independence of Uganda.''

"Everything we do, we do legally," Wine told DW Monday, adding that campaigning and free and fair elections are guaranteed under Ugandan law.

Wine and other opposition figures have called the 76-year-old Museveni a dictator, who has ruled without any opposition since 1986. 

Museveni, Wine claims, has destroyed institutions and taken control of parliament and the judiciary. "President Museveni hates to lose, and yet he is doing everything that makes him lose."

wmr/rt (dpa, Reuters)