President Museveni has slammed Facebook’s hypocrisy on free speech, saying it should either allow all Ugandans to use the platforms “equitably” or quit the East African country’s market.
“I am very sorry for the inconvenience to those who have been using this channel (Facebook), but we cannot tolerate this arrogance of anybody coming to decide for us who is good and who is bad,” said Museveni in a televised national address this Tuesday night.
“There is no way anybody can come and play around with our country to decide who is good and bad,” he emphasised.
Facebook, which boasts about 3 million users in Uganda, last Friday night deleted accounts of more than 100 users, some of whom are supporters of the NRM government.
The social media giant said the accounts were involved in inappropriate activity aimed at manipulating public debate ahead of 2021 elections.
“We found this network to be linked to the Government Citizens Interaction Center at the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology in Uganda,” Facebook said.
“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.”
However, many Ugandans who are apolitical had their accounts deleted.
Museveni, who said he was using the platform to engage Ugandans on issues of national interest, didn’t mince his words.
“That social channel [Facebook], if it is going to operate in Uganda, it should be used equitably,” said the President.
“If you take sides against the NRM, then it shall not operate here, Uganda is ours,” he emphasised.
Government today expressed concern that Facebook didn’t not respond to its letter seeking clarity on reasons why the accounts were deleted.
Many accused Facebook of meddling in Uganda’s internal election.
Museveni said he ordered for the shutdown of social media platforms because his government couldn’t tolerate the “arrogance” of anybody deciding on who is good who is not.
“The other day Facebook decided to block the NRM message senders. Why would anybody do that?” wondered Museveni.
“I told our people to warn those Facebook people. If they do not want to cooperate, they shall not operate here. I am sure government has already closed social media,” he added.
The development comes just a day before the January 14 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Meanwhile, Museveni warned opposition against intimidating people ahead of election.
“Some groups have made it a habit to cheat in elections. I want to tell you, that cheating is treason. When you use violence to intimidate to be voted for, you are committing treason because if you win you will not have won with the support of the people,” said Museveni.
“There have been practices of intimidation especially by the Opposition who have been threatening people not to come out and vote, in some areas, they have even attacked peaceful citizens. Don’t fear, come out and vote, nobody will attack you,” he added.
“I appeal to the Electoral Commission to not allow any voting where a thumbprint is not used. Anybody trying to cheat, we shall go for them. Don’t waste our time by trying to cheat.”