Gov’t restores social media after imprisoning Besigye for treason


Cartoon by The Star Kenya

Authorities have restored access to social media websites after a three-day blackout.

Regulators blocked access to Twitter and Facebook, and to the messaging service WhatsApp Wednesday evening, a day opposition leader Kizza Besigye reportedly took oath as a people’s president in Kampala.

Godfrey Mutabazi, executive director of the Uganda Communications Commission, told Reuters that security agencies had requested the move as “a measure to limit the possibility of terrorists’ taking advantage” of the presence of foreign leaders in the country for President Yoweri Museveni’s inauguration for a fifth term as president on Thursday.

Ugandans had to resort to a virtual private network (VPN) to secure access to these platforms but on a smaller scale.

It was the second time in three months that Ugandan regulators plunged the country into a state-enforced social-media blackout.

The government blocked access to social media websites during the February 18 elections citing fears of terrorism.

In a May 5 press conference Mutabazi has threatened to block social media on account of FDC’s defiance activities.

He lived up to his promise this week when Besigye escaped police surveillance at his home in Kasangati to storm the city centre.

The blockage continued even after Museveni’s swearing in ceremony only to be lifted on Saturday, a day after Besigye was imprisoned for treason.

Social media is back but still slow–on and off.

Besigye appeared before the Moroto Chief Magistrates Court presided over by the acting chief magistrate Charles Yepeise under heavy security.

Besigye had no lawyer when the charges were being read to him.

He was not allowed to take plea because treason is a capital offence only triable by the High Court.

Prosecution alleges that while in various places, Besigye declared himself as president for having won the February 18 presidential elections.

He was remanded to Moroto government prison until May 25 when he will re-appear in court for further mention of the case.

In 2010, Besigye was charged with treason when he made it known that he was going to challenge Museveni.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court quashed the treason charges against him in October 2010.

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