Thursday is election day in Uganda, but internet services have been shut down across the country.
The head of Uganda Communications Commission, Irene Ssewankambo, penned a letter to telecoms, ordering service providers to “implement a temporary suspension of the operation of all your internet gateways and associated access points.”
Ssewankambo said the shutdown was to take effect at 7 pm local time (16:00 GMT) Wednesday “and continue until otherwise directed.”
The country’s two largest mobile networks MTN Uganda and Airtel Uganda, account for most of the country’s 20 million internet users. The shutdown will mean that Ugandan voters, opposition party members, and election observers will have fewer communication means when polls open.
“I can confirm that MTN Uganda and all Licensed Telecommunication Operators in the country have received a directive from Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to implement a suspension of the operation of all internet Gateways and associated access points,” Nompilo Morafo, MTN’s group executive for corporate affairs told Reuters.
According to QUARTZ, there have been reports that specific cellphones have been targeted and can neither make calls nor send text messages — including the phone of Barbara Itungo, the wife of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi a.k.a Bobi Wine.
The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), the main opposition party in Uganda, condemned the internet shutdown.
“The total blackout of Uganda’s internet services means Ugandans can only reach the outside world only through text message and direct telephone communications. #M7Rigs2021,” the FDC tweeted.
The shutdown comes a day after the government ordered a country-wide social media ban.