Ugandan Government Blocking Facebook and Twitter

One of the more under-reported stories over the past couple of weeks has been the flicker of a sub-Saharan protest movement.  First, there were street protests in Swaziland against a monarch that banned political parties 38 years ago.  Now, it would seem the winds of protest are heading to Uganda.  And, unfortunately, Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni is taking a page from his neighbors to the north by suppressing the dissent.

Here’s the story: rising fuel and food prices are causing widespread discontent in the central African country.  These frustrations came to a head this week in anti-government protests, lead by the opposition leader Kizza Besigye. (In February, Museveni defeated Besigye in flawed national elections, extending the Ugandan leader’s streak to 25 years in power.)

Besigye led a protest around rising food and fuel prices termed “walk to work.” Here’s The New Times describing what happened next:

Despite the meager size of the protests — rarely numbering more than a few hundred people in a country of more than 30 million — they have elicited a crushing response by government security forces, sending tear gas through crowds of bystanders and university dormitories. Demonstrators were beaten and fired upon, further raising political tensions.

Mr. Besigye was dragged onto the back of a pickup truck by several police officers on Monday, his right hand in a cast and sling after being shot by military police with a rubber bullet on Thursday, the second day of the walk to work demonstrations. Monday’s demonstration was the third, and comes as riots have broken out in a number of universities in Kampala.

Now, via Global Voices Online, it looks like the government has shutdown Facebook and Twitter.

On Friday, blogs and newspapers began reporting that the Ugandan Communications Commission had issued a letter to several of the country’s major telecoms, asking them to block access to Facebook and Twitter. A copy of the letter was posted to Twitter by user @kasujja:

A copy of the Uganda Communications Commission letter demanding that ISPs block Facebook and Twitter was posted to Twitter.

The letter reads in part, “You are therefore required to block the use of Facebook and Tweeter [sic] for 24 hours as of now, that is: 14th April 2011 at 3.30 p.m. to eliminate the connection and sharing of information that incides the public.”

Presumably, the next step is for Museveni to make some condescending speech about the youth of the nation?