Uganda’s government decided to shut down the internet in the country before the presidential elections on Thursday in order to stifle the flow of information, but the Bitcoin traders were caught in this mess as well as we read more in today’s BTC news.
Days before the Thursday elections, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and the rest of Uganda’s government are pulling out all of the stops they can to win another term. Police arrested his main opponent, politician Bobi Wine and they used alleged COVID protocols as a reason to shut down opposition events so government agencies decided to turn off access to social media apps like Twitter, WhatsApp and Twitter.
— Kyle Spencer (@kyleville) January 13, 2021
As people got around social media restrictions by VPNs, the Uganda Communications Commission decided to pull the plug on the entire internet mandating that internet service providers have to suspend the operation of international gateways. Expat Kyle Spencer who is the head of the Uganda Internet Exchange Point wrote that the country was “cut off from the world.” Domestic internet traffic dropped by 95% in one day with only a few networks having activity, but until now, they are most certainly dead.
One source said that when only social media sites were targeted:
“In Uganda, the shutdown is simply to avoid the flow of information from the public at a time when we need full transparency and open reporting.”
As a side effect, according to the UsefulTulips analytics site, there’s been no reported BTC trading activity on the peer-to-peer exchange LocalBitcoins or Paxful since January 14th. Looking at these sites you can see that there are sellers from everywhere but not Uganda. UGX traders on LocalBitcoins hailed from other countries like Congo, Tanzania, or Rwanda. The market is quite small and the P2P markets register about $5000 and $15000 in trading every day which is why Binance decided to close its local site. However, the lack of activity is worrisome nonetheless.
MTN Uganda which is a telecom company controls 60% of the country’s mobile phone market and plays a huge role in providing access to the internet via USB devices and mobile phones. Ugandans however are used to being cut off since the government already tried to tax visits to social media apps as a way to prevent “gossip.” Opposition groups were ready for something like this to happen as one Bobi Wine supporters said:
“We had encouraged many to install VPNs…[Museveni] does not want Ugandans opposing his misrule to communicate about this Thursday’s election irregularities and illegalities, but we are lucky to have the alternative of VPN today.”
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