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US, UN press Uganda on rights ahead of election

Uganda ordered a shutdown of social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp ahead of Thursday's vote.

FILE: Uganda police disperse crowds in Kayunga town as they gather to welcome Ugandan musician-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, on 1 December 2020. Picture: AFP.

UNITED NATIONS, UNITED STATES - The United States on Tuesday condemned a social media blackout in Uganda and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged respect for human rights in the run-up to the presidential election.

Uganda ordered a shutdown of social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp ahead of Thursday's vote in which President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, seeks a sixth term.

"We are concerned by reports that the government of Uganda has ordered Internet service providers to block social media platforms, messaging apps and select content in the runup to general elections," said Tibor Nagy, the top US diplomat for Africa.

"Such restrictions undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The statement comes amid controversy inside the United States where Twitter and Facebook have banned President Donald Trump for inciting a mob to ransack the US Capitol over his election defeat.

Museveni, 76, faces pop star-turned-MP Bobi Wine, 36, who has fired up a youthful population that has grown up mostly knowing only one president.

Guterres "encourages all political actors and their supporters to publicly commit to conduct their political activities peacefully and refrain from incitement to violence or hate speech," his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

"We've seen multiple arrests and detention of candidates," Dujarric said.

The election campaign has been one of the bloodiest in years.

Journalists covering opposition rallies have been attacked, government critics locked up and election monitors prosecuted, raising concerns over the transparency of the electoral process.

Two days of protests in November left 54 people dead.

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