Uganda Elections: Biometric machines fail, 17.5 million subscribers lower off after total recordsdata superhighway shutdown

An recordsdata superhighway blackout has been enforced in Uganda as voters plod to polling centres to solid their votes on election day.

An present from the Uganda Communications Price (UCC) on Wednesday directed all recordsdata superhighway service companies within the nation to “enforce a rapid-term suspension of the operation of all of your Internet Gateways and connected salvage entry to functions.”

UCC’s present says the shutdown will “continue unless in any other case directed.”

It’s a long way an escalation of the social media blockage positioned on Tuesday, which made Fb, Twitter, WhatsApp and other platforms inaccessible. Ugandans began the utilize of VPNs to avoid the social media ban. Nonetheless, mild, a total recordsdata superhighway shutdown makes it nearly very not going to salvage entry to recordsdata and social circles on-line.

Uganda’s presidential elections are on the total a heated affair; the fabricate-as a lot as this year’s elections imply the pattern will continue. Yoweri Museveni, the incumbent, is running for a sixth term against ten challengers from opposition events. 

His most important rival is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, the pop smartly-known particular person popularly identified as Bobi Wine.

Wine is a heralded critical menace to Museveni’s 35-year-damaged-down grip on energy. His significance has introduced him in frequent crosshairs with the Ugandan police force. Barred from originate-air campaigns, he has in overall relied on the web to energise followers of his ride.

An recordsdata superhighway shutdown cuts off not handiest Wine’s supporters however the majority of Uganda’s 17.5 million recordsdata superhighway subscribers. Similarily questions are being raised regarding the enact on deepest sector services love digital banking, walk-hailing and food delivery platforms within the duration.

On Tuesday, MTN Uganda acknowledged that it implemented the social media ban and brushed off reviews that its Cell Money service had been affected. Ironically, they tweeted that dismissal after the social media ban used to be already in force.

UCC’s letter does not give explicit reasons justifying the total shutdown. But a pattern of previous occurrences suggests the authority is serving the President’s curiosity to restrict the spread of dialog within and outside the nation.

“Switching off the web is a transparent signal that something is inferior,” said Nancy Kalembe, the handiest female candidate within the presidential lag, after casting her vote on Thursday morning.

“A government that a complete nation does not have freedom of recordsdata and freedom of speech. That is a in actuality mistaken signal.” 

An recordsdata superhighway shutdown isn’t the handiest topic in Uganda on election day. There had been reviews of disasters of biometric machines at polling centres, causing long queues. The machines appear to be powered by the web:

Majority of reviews of failing BVV (Biometric Voter Verification) kits which might perchance perchance be stale to name voters. The machines count on recordsdata superhighway that is now blocked. Traces are growing longer at polling stations #UgandaDecides2021

— Mujuni Raymond (@qataharraymond) January 14, 2021

Uganda launched biometric voter verification for elections in 2016. For this year’s polls, the government sold 38,500 devices at the associated rate of UGX 82.8 billion (~ US$22 million), basically basically based on a report. 36,500 of those devices had been sold on hire.

Museveni and Wine have solid their votes as of press time. Uganda’s electoral commission will relate results 48 hours after the shut of polls. 

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