After almost a hundred days of an internet shutdown in the North West and south west regions of Cameroun, President Paul Biya has ordered Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, to instruct internet service providers to re-establish connectivity to these regions.
The shutdown was initiated by the government as a response to a series of paralysing protests in the English-speaking regions of the country since November 2016. The regions were protesting against marginalization by the majority French-speaking Eastern region, with some calling for a return to the federal system, which would allow for a two state federation which was the system in place when the countries – Eastern and Western Cameroon – came together in 1972. Others were advocating for a complete cessation from Cameroon to form the Ambazonian Republic.
Announcing the lifting of the ban, the government has said it reserves the right to “take measures to stop the internet once again becoming a tool to stoke hatred and division among Cameroonians”.
In reaction to the ban, the African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC), which distributes and manages the Internet number resources – IP address space (IPv4 and IPv6) and Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs) had stated stated the need for punitive action against governments that resort to shuting the internet down.
According to French NGO, Internet sans Frontieres (Internet without Borders), the government’s action cost the economy with nearly 3 million euros ($3.1 million) lost since January. The news of the restoration of access, has been welcomed by the the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa, who said:
“I welcome this measure, which is in line with those recently announced by the Government to address the demands of English-Speaking teachers and lawyers,” said François Louncény Fall, who also heads the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), in a press statement.