English-speaking parts of Cameroon are now back online as the government in French-speaking Yaounde overturns an internet blackout, which damaged the local economy and triggered a free speech campaign, Deutsche Welle (DW) reports.
The move comes three months after the authorities imposed an internet blaackout in those regions in response to protests against the predominantly French-speaking government of Paul Biya.
Biyan one of the continent’s long(serving head of states, has been ruling this Central African nation with iron-fist since 1982.
“The conditions that preceded the suspension of the internet to that part of the national territory have much changed” and the President had ordered the resumption of internet servces in the northwest and southwest regions,” government spokesman Issa Tchiroma said in a statement.
Cameroon was asked by the United Nations to restore internet connections last week. Francois Lonseny Fall, the UN Secretary General’s Acting Special Representative for Central Africa, said only the reconnection of the internet and frank dialogue would enable the Cameroon’s government to resolve its problems with the English-speaking regions.
Cameroon’s Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Libong Lili Keng said the government would continue to monitor online usage to make sure there were no abuses even though services had been restored.
“Our security forces have platforms to track and control people just as in all other countries of the world,” she said, adding that it was “the goal of the government to encourage the digital economy.”
Free speech activists launched a campaign on behalf of the English-speaking regions under the hashtag #Bringbackourinternet, which was supported by fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden who responded to the blackout by tweeting in January “this is the future of repression.”
The French NGO Internet Without Borders estimates that the blackout cost Cameroon’s economy at nearly 3 million euros ($3.2 million) as well as being a violation by the government of the right to freedom of expression.
The Cameroonian government was using the withdrawal of modern technology as a weapon against dissent. The origins of the unrest can be traced backed Cameroon’s colonial past a century ago.