Uganda elections: social media blocked
People line up to cast their vote in presidential and parliamentary polls at the Nasuti polling stationISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty

Ugandans have been forced to use workarounds to access online services, after social media and mobile money services were shut down on election day on 18 February across the nation "for security reasons", according to the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).

Political tensions were running high as 15 million Ugandans prepared to head to national elections, in which President Yoweri Museveni is contesting his fifth term in office.

While Ugandans spoke of fears of violence following the embattled vote, they also took to social media to vent their frustration after Facebook,Twitter and WhatsApp's shut down continued throughout election day.

UCC boss Godfrey Mutabazi told local media the Ugandan electoral commission had requested the block. He outlined a number of reasons for the unexpected shutdown - including the fact that "Mobile Money and social media were shut down because there was information that people were using these to bribe voters", according to NTV Uganda, a local broadcaster. Mutabazi said the UCC was awaiting instructions from the electoral commission before turning the services back on.

Opposition leaders also took to social media to inform their supporters about ways to avoid the block.

Amama Mbabazi, a 66-year-old lawyer who was one of Museveni's closest advisers for 30 years and was secretary-general of the ruling National Resistance Movement party between 2010 and 2014, sent messages on both Twitter and Facebook suggesting supporters used "Tunnelbear VPN".

Amama Mbabazi Uganda
Facebook / Amama Mbabazi