State House left with egg on face over Uganda poll

Polling agents from the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party celebrate the victory of Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni in the concluded general elections in Kampala, Uganda, on January 16, 2021. [Reuters]

State House was yesterday forced to pull down tweets and a Facebook post congratulating Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for election victory.

The post on Facebook was deleted after the social media giant flagged it as containing misinformation.

The deletions, intended to save face, were however interpreted by Kenyans on social media as Kenya retracting its congratulations to the Ugandan president in the midst of questions on the integrity of the Thursday elections.

However, Kenyan fact-checker PesaCheck, which works with Facebook to fact-check content published on the social media site, said the message had been erroneously flagged as false on account of the picture used alongside it.

PesaCheck said the post by State House did not have any false information that had been looked into by fact-checkers, but merely used a photo that was part of a 2019 Facebook post which was marked as false.

Facebook works with third-party fact-checkers such as PesaCheck, to rid the platform of misinformation.

“The error appears to have originated from the automation system, which looks for similar content that has been fact-checked. In this case, both posts shared the same photo of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni,” the fact-checking site said.

Uganda's leading opposition challenger Bobi Wine outside Kampala, Uganda, on January 15, 2021.

In this instance, PesaCheck explained, the image was part of a post with misinformation about President Museveni reshuffling his Cabinet, which was shared in November 2019 and which was marked as false.

In the congratulatory message shared on Facebook, State House said President Uhuru Kenyatta had termed Museveni’s re-election as a testimony of the confidence the Ugandan people had in his leadership.

The president also said Uganda had achieved stability and registered economic growth under Museveni’s rule and Kenya was eager to deepen ties with its neighbour. ?

The post had been shared 22 times with 356 comments.

Museveni has won a sixth term in office in an election whose results his main challenger, former singer Bobi Wine, is contesting.

The nation's electoral commission announced on Saturday that Museveni received 58 per cent of the vote compared to Wine's 34 per cent. But the opposition is alleging that the vote was rigged.

After State House Kenya's post was flagged for alleged misinformation, the administrators of the Facebook page deleted the post, as well as on Twitter where it had sent out the same message in three tweets.

In the hour that the messages were up, State House’s Twitter account was flooded with about 200 comments and an equal number of retweets, a significant number hailing the flagging.

"That's good. Don't support impunity. Musalia should do the same," Joseville Masika said, imploring Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi to also delete his congratulatory message.

"I hope somebody should read between the lines on the reason for this action. It’s a pointer of things to come," Rono Sam said.

Mudavadi was on the receiving end for his tweet congratulating Museveni.

"I take this early opportunity to congratulate President Yoweri Museveni upon his victory and re-election. I wish the people of Uganda continued prosperity as he embarks on his fresh mandate," Musalia tweeted on Saturday.

The message did not go down well with some of Mudavadi's followers who expressed their disappointment in the comments.

"I doubt Hon Musalia was aware of this tweet," Christopher Khaemba said.