On Monday, the social network Facebook closed dozens of accounts accused of interfering in the public debate on the Ugandan presidential election scheduled for 14 January 2021. The election, whose electoral campaign was strewn with violence, will pit outgoing President Yoweri Museveni, 76, against Bobi Wine, 38, a star of the song who became a deputy.
Facebook closed on Monday, at only 72 hours of the presidential election, a dozen accounts believed to belong to officials close to the outgoing President. “This month (January), we closed a network of accounts and pages in Uganda that were involved in ‘coordinated inauthentic behaviour’ aimed at influencing the public debate ahead of the election”, said Facebook’s communication manager for sub-Saharan Africa, Kezzia Anim-Addo. According to him, they used fake accounts or duplicate accounts to manage pages, commented on the content of other people, pretended to be users, shared content in groups to make them appear more popular than they were. “Given the impending election in Uganda, we responded quickly to investigate and bring down this network. We discovered that this network was linked to the Citizens’ Interaction Group with the government of the Ministry of Information (…) in Uganda,” Facebook said.
The holders of the incriminated accounts are rushing into the stretchers and accusing foreign forces of supporting Bobi Wine’s campaign. “There is no coordinated operation to interfere in the public debate,” said a government official targeted by the closure of his account. “Actions condemned by the social network, such as the opening of multiple accounts, are used individually by members of all political parties in Uganda, but only those of the majority have been targeted,” he said.
Don Wanyama, the communications advisor to President Yoweri Museveni, is one of the personalities whose Facebook and Instagram accounts have been closed. He, in turn, accused the American giant of wanting to influence the course of the presidential election. “Shame on foreign forces that think they can set up a puppet regime in Uganda by deactivating the online accounts of NRM supporters,” the ruling party said, adding, “You will not get rid of President Museveni.”
According to the Movement of National Resistance (NRM), several dozen accounts belonging to various personalities suffered the same fate. A senior official from the Ministry of Information and Communications, a prominent Internet user close to the NRM, a well-known doctor are concerned by the measure. However, the President’s accounts were not covered by Facebook’s intervention.