A number of Ugandan government officials and ruling party members have had their Facebook accounts shut down over accusations they are seeking to manipulate public debate ahead of elections
The East African nation will cast their votes on Thursday, January 14, to elect a new president and parliament amid a tense and bloody electoral campaign, with incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, 76, facing a stiff challenge from singer -turned-politician, Bobi Wine, 38.
“Given the impending election in Uganda, we moved quickly to investigate and take down this network,” Facebook said in a statement on Monday, adding the decision was linked to the government ministry of information and communications technology.
“They used fake and duplicate 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,” it added.
Judith Nabakooba, Uganda’s minister of information, told Reuters news agency she needed more time to study the situation before commenting.
Museveni’s senior press secretary Don Wanyama, who saw both his Facebook and Instagram accounts shut down, accused the company of seeking to influence the election.
“Shame on the foreign forces that think they can aid and plant a puppet leadership on Uganda by disabling online accounts of [ruling party] NRM supporters,” he said on Twitter.
“You won’t take away President Kaguta Museveni,” he added, using the president’s second name.
Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development Frank Tumwebaze also accused the social media platform of targeting Ugandan accounts and urged Facebook to unblock them.
President Museveni’s Facebook account is still active but many government officials and members of the ruling party have seen their pages taken down.
The account shutdown comes amid heightened tensions between the main candidates, Museveni and Bobi.
The president, who has been in power since 1986, has long accused foreign organisations of backing Wine in a bid to remove his government.