Uganda finds itself as the latest country to block access to Whatsapp, Facebook & Twitter.
Uganda today went to the polls to vote for a new leader. President Yoweri Museveni is looking to extend his current rule of 30 years. With 7 other candidates in the race one would think a fair vote would result in a democratic outcome but many are convinced the polls will be anything but fair.
To kick off vote day the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) decided to censor leading social media sites Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and others and cited “national security” as the reason for the blockade.
Users on the MTN, Airtell and Africell networks are mostly affected by the Ugandan social media blackout with Vodafone users reportedly still able to access some sites.
Uganda finds itself as one of a long list of countries that have permanently or temporarily blocked these services. China lead the way in the blocking stakes but other countries such as Brazil have found themselves in a similar position to Uganda in recent months.
How to access Whatsapp, Facebook & Twitter in Uganda
If you’re in Uganda and want to access Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter or other blocked sites freely then you’ll need to sign up for a VPN service.
A VPN allows you to bypass the Uganda Elections social media censorship imposed by the UCC and access social media and other services as normal.
All three providers will let you unblock Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and other blocked services in Uganda on your mobile device if you have an Android or iOS and your desktop/laptop if Windows or Mac.
I’ll concentrate on mobile use here but the process is the same for desktop and laptop systems.
Once you’ve signed up to one of the providers download their mobile client from either the Google Play store or Apple App store and install.
Launch the app and login.
You will now see a selection of countries to connect to. You should connect to the nearest country to Uganda as this will give the best speeds.
Once connected your connection has now tunnelled out of Uganda to the country you connected to. A VPN encrypts your connection so the websites that you access won’t be visible to your mobile or internet company nor the Ugandan government.
Uganda elections 2016
Uganda officially opened voting from around 7 am across the country and Whatsapp, Facebook & Twitter found themselves blocked as early as 9 am.
Fred Otunnu the UCC’s director claimed the decision was made because of the sensitive nature of the period and that the action was only temporary. However, when a country decides to flick a switch on what services are available and what are not then it sets a dangerous precedent for Uganda’s online future.
Users already making use of VPN services in Uganda have been tweeting messages claiming that ballot papers have not arrived as of 1 pm Ugandan time and other claims state already marked ballot papers have been issued.
— Viktor Vaughn (@KawumaBulayimu) February 18, 2016
Journalists and individuals should certainly sign up to a VPN to ensure they can access an open and free internet in Uganda.