Internet services have resumed in two English speaking regions of Cameroon after a 93 day blackout. President Paul Biya ordered the restoration of internet services yesterday April 20.
The internet was cut off in January in the north-western and south-western regions, following protest from English speaking community against alleged discrimination by Cameroon’s French-speaking majority. The government had alleged that social media was being used to spread false information. The government pressured mobile operators like MTN to shut down the internet by including suspension of internet connectivity as part of their license conditions. No prior notice was given before the internet shut down
Various regional internet and digital rights groups like Internet Sans Frontiers and Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) canvassed for a restoration of internet services in Cameroon using such hashtags like #bringbackourinternet and #keepiton. Top UN officials viewed it as a rights violation.
Sadly, African leaders are increasingly embracing internet shutdowns as tools to stifle spread of information on social media. Countries like Gambia, Congo, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe have all shut down the internet in their countries previously. Even though neighbouring Ghana did not shut down the internet during elections, its Police Chief advocated for it. According to reports, the internet in African countries was shut more than 50 times in 2016. This has spurred proposals to punish African governments if they shut down access to the internet
It is hoped that Nigeria would not join this negative trend