The government of Cameroon has shut down the Internet in two main English-speaking regions of the country amid mass anti-government protests that started last year.
The residents of northwest and southwest parts of Cameroon can no longer access social media and other Internet services after their government, which is predominantly led by the French-speaking community, unexpectedly shut down the Internet earlier this week, according to Quartz.
The abrupt blackout has caused a storm on social media, with Cameroonians in other parts of the country and abroad running a social media campaign dubbed #BringBackTheInternet:
#Cameroon govt blocked all internet access in English-Speaking regions Join us in telling them to #BringBackOurInternet #KeepItOn
— Rebecca Enonchong (@africatechie) January 22, 2017
I am #Bamenda no to violence. No to marginalisation no to the use of excessive force #Cameroon #bringbacktheinternet #anglophoneproblem
— Nina Forgwe (@NinaForgwe) January 20, 2017
— Beatrice (@Beatriceijang) January 25, 2017
Many see the Internet shutdown as an economic sanction on the northwestern and southwestern regions of Cameroon. Residents of the two regions have been protesting over alleged marginalization by the government.
Businesses that depend on the Internet in these regions have been forced to suspend their services indefinitely, while commercial banks and micro-finance institutions in the affected areas have suspended their money transfer services, which depend on the Internet.
Other institutions that have been affected by the ongoing Internet shutdown include learning institutions and technology companies located in Buea, known as the Cameroon equivalent of Silicon Valley.
Online retailers in the Central African country are also counting losses since their customers can no longer access their products:
We are just a small business in Buea we can’t carry out some of our business function or communicate with clients. #BringBackOurInternet
— Belle and Glam (@BelleandGlam) January 22, 2017
A Call for Equality
Since December last year, the northwestern and southwestern parts of Cameroon have been experiencing waves of deadly protests as residents call for an end to what they say is prolonged marginalization and suppression by the government.
The uprising was triggered by the appointment of French-speaking judges and teachers in English-speaking areas — a practice that locals say has been going on for many years.
“People want federal structure, they want their voices to be heard, they want an end to marginalization and suppression,” Felix Nkongho, the president of Fako Lawyers Association in Cameroon, which initiated the protests, told CNN last year.
At least four people are reported to have died in the ongoing protests, with Cameroonian security agencies being accused of using excessive force against unarmed protesters.