In the days following President Yoweri Museveni's inauguration ceremony, Ugandans were slowly able to access social media again after the Uganda Communications Commission ordered the sites blocked for “security reasons.”
The blackout began on the evening of May 11, 2016, and Internet service providers announced that access to sites like Facebook and Twitter was supposedly restored on May 13. Some customers, however, reported that problems using social media persisted until Sunday, May 15.
Josiah Kato, for example, commented on leading telecom MTN Uganda's Facebook page at 3:12 a.m. on May 14 asking why he could not access messaging app WhatsApp. MTN replied, contradicting their earlier announcement that “all social media had been restored,” saying “the social media shut down by Government is still on.”
Currently, Ugandans are able to access social media sites normally.
President Museveni was sworn into office on May 12 for his controversial fifth term after winning more than 60% of the vote in elections in February 2016. The country's political opposition claims that the election was rigged, and international observers and human rights groups have also expressed concern over the election process.
The main opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), and other activists have been challenging Museveni's victory with a series of protests they've dubbed the “defiance campaign.” Social media has played a key role in the movement's organization.
During the forced shutdown, only people using virtual private networks (VPNs) were able to access social media sites. Those who are less tech savvy were locked out. Ugandans also used VPNs to circumvent a four-day social media blackout during the February elections.
The State House of Uganda, however, didn't seem to have an issue getting around the block. The account of the official residence of the president posted photos of African leaders arriving to attend the Museveni's inauguration on its Facebook page at 7:27 pm local time on May 11, two and a half hours after the social media blackout reportedly began.
One Facebook user commented on the post:
This is laughable indeed , I wonder whom u expect to read this since u ordered for the shut down of social media