KAMPALA, Uganda — Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said Tuesday that his government has shut down social media ahead of a tense election on Thursday, accusing Facebook and unnamed outside groups of "arrogance" after the social network this week removed Ugandan accounts linked to his reelection campaign.
"That social channel you are talking about, if it is going to operate in Uganda, it should be used equitably by everybody who wants to use it," Museveni said of Facebook in a national address. "If you want to take sides against the (ruling party), then that group will not operate in Uganda."
Museveni, dressed in a military jacket, said he was "sure the government has closed social media" and apologized to Ugandans for what he called an inconvenience.
Facebook on Monday said it had removed a network of accounts and pages that "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." The network was linked to a government ministry, it said.
There was no immediate Facebook statement in response to the president's comments.
Many Ugandans said Tuesday that Facebook and WhatsApp were not working. Twitter also appears to have been affected.
There are fears the internet will be shut down on polling day.
"This is unfortunate but it is unavoidable. There is no way anybody can come around and play with our country, to decide who is good, who is bad. We cannot accept that," Museveni said, adding that he "cannot tolerate this arrogance."
Museveni, has ruled Uganda since 1986, has alleged repeatedly that foreign groups are trying to meddle in Uganda's election, without providing evidence. He has accused his main challenger, the popular singer and opposition lawmaker known as Bobi Wine, of being "an agent of foreign interests." Wine denies this.
The atmosphere in Uganda is increasingly charged ahead of voting. Police and military personnel now patrol the streets in parts of the capital, Kampala, and the military is in charge of all security operations in the Kampala metropolitan area.
Wine, who insisted Tuesday that his campaign is nonviolent, urged his supporters not to be intimidated by the security forces.
Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, earlier on Tuesday joined other opposition figures in criticizing widespread violence by security forces. He told reporters that soldiers who raided his home Tuesday morning, arrested a security guard and beat two gardeners badly.
"The terror, frankly, is unprecedented," said Kizza Besigye, a veteran opposition leader. "Violence, terror seem to be scaled up with every coming election."