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Uganda Restores Internet, Keeps Opposition Leader in House Detention 


An Ugandan police APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier) is parked on a soccer field in Kampala, Uganda, Jan. 18, 2021.

Uganda’s government restored some internet access Monday after a five-day blackout during last week's election that saw President Yoweri Museveni reelected to a sixth term. The opposition National Unity Platform party plans to challenge the results and says the military has their leader Bobi Wine under house arrest.

Around 10:30 a.m. Monday, Ugandans heard their mobile phones ping for the first time in five days since the government shut down the internet.

However, social media platforms such as Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook are still offline and can only be accessed via the virtual private network.

Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo says social media was high on the list of possible threats to the election. He says officials regret the inconvenience but says they took the right decision.

“Disinformation had started, with intention to discredit the election, with intention to intimidate, with intention to suppress voter turn up, with intention to spread hate speech, abuse of candidates directly, abuse of political formations you don’t agree with. To undermine the credibility of the results. We knew, that if we didn’t shut social media, most likely we would have gone into chaos,” he said.

National Unity Platform leader Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as singer Bobi Wine, is contesting the election results, citing ballot box stuffing and other irregularities.

The government says the NUP will only be allowed to contest the election results through court.

Wine’s lawyers say they have enough evidence to present to judges, but need their leader to advise on the next course of action. However, as they attempted to see him Monday morning at his home, lawyer Benjamin Katana says they were blocked.

“Bobi Wine has challenged the results that were released by the Electoral Commission. And what that means is that several options available to him including going to court. To reach at that decision, he needs to consult his lawyers. And it’s his right to access lawyers. They have not allowed us to enter," he said.

Police say the heavy deployment around Wine’s home is because it is one of the locations that are considered trouble hotspots.

Fred Enanga, the Uganda police spokesperson, says intelligence agencies had received word of possible violence.

“Of instigating riotous situation and demonstrations in protests of the outcome of the election. That’s how you find that we have maintained a security cover around Kasangati and Magere. The movements are being controlled. It’s not that people have been blocked, lawyers and so on,” he said.

President Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of last week’s election. Official results showed him beating Wine 59 to 35 percent.

Museveni’s National Resistance Movement party also won a majority in parliament with 316 seats. However, the National Unity Platform was able to capture 56 seats, defeating several ministers in the Museveni Cabinet.

Godber Tumushabe, a political analyst says the loss of the ministers including the vice president, is a strong sign of no confidence in Museveni and his government.

“Because it's unprecedented that you can have an entire Cabinet swept off," he said. "Museveni has been timid to reform his Cabinet, now the voters have helped him to reshuffle it. The mere fact that all his ministers have lost, we should even be asking, how did Museveni win?”

A government spokesman says this is a natural trend in the elections of Uganda, with ministers losing big because voters want other people to come and enjoy the same position.

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