Thursday, 30 March 2017

There Is No Way For You To Read This Article If You Are In The Anglophone Regions of Cameroon ... President Paul Biya's Cruelty Exposed.

This Country Has Kept Its English Speakers Off The Internet For Two Whole Months

In a country where 80% of people speak French, English speakers feel like they're being punished for wanting equal status for their language. Wednesday marks 73 days since people in northwest and southwest Cameroon have had no access to the internet — at all. And it doesn't look like it's coming back anytime soon.

On Jan. 17, the government of Cameroon shut down the internet in two regions of the central African country. Courts and schools in the two regions have also been on strike for the duration.The blackout has affected everything: ATM machines no longer work; students can't gossip on Whatsapp; and businesses have folded up as they're no longer able to operate online.

The internet shutdown came after a surge in protests by English-speaking Cameroonians against the government last year. 
Throughout the last three months of 2016, the government faced a series of protests from lawyers, teachers and students. The marches were triggered by the presidential appointment of French-speaking judges to courts in the Anglophone region. Aside from operating in a different language, English-speaking regions still operate under the English common law, as opposed to French civil law which the appointees were trained in. Judges went on strike. Teachers soon joined them, saying the prevalence of French-speaking teachers in classrooms — who spoke limited English — was hampering students' progress.

While discontent has simmered in the background for decades, by December they bubbled over into violence. The government responded brutally. Incidents of soldiers brutally assaulting students flooded Cameroonian Twitter. Several prominent government critics were arrested, including a senior judge. They have yet to be released. Paul Biya, the autocratic ruler who has held power for 35 years, soon after claimed the internet needed to be shutdown for 'security reasons.'

Cameroonians have responded creatively by setting up internet "refugee camps" where the data is always flowing. To get online, residents in the affected areas have been forced to travel for tens of kilometers to get to Francophone areas where there's still connectivity.

But in Buea, known as "Silicon Mountain" for its booming tech start-ups, a group of techies have come together to set up a "refuge," Quartz reports. They've rented a room in Bonako, a village bordering the French region, bought portable modems and hooked them up to generators, creating an oasis for struggling start ups.

In a tech connected world, solidarity has come from around the world. Cameroonians at home and abroad have been using the hashtag #Bringbackourinternet to show solidarity as the blackout edges towards three months and shows no sign of lifting.

African governments been increasingly using blackouts as a tool to crush dissenting voices.  This week a Tanzanian rapper was arrested after a song criticising the government went viral. And partial or complete internet blackouts were order in Gambia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon in 2016. Officials in Zimbabwe also hiked the cost of internet cell data after protests jumped from social media to the streets.

For now, most Cameroonians are calling on the government to begin implementing three simple measures.
There Is No Way For You To Read This Article If You Are In The Anglophone Regions of Cameroon ... President Paul Biya's Cruelty Exposed.
Monica Mark is the West Africa Correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Dakar, Senegal. Contact Monica Mark at
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