The financial impact of the Internet shutdown in Cameroon is now an estimated €2.69 million, according to digital access advocates who have repeated calls for restoration of service to the Anglophone regions in the West African nation’s northwest and southwest.
“Without Internet, many start-ups of ‘Silicon Mountain’ can no longer operate in the city of Buea, banks and money transfer services are idle,” the letter said, noting that the impact of the first 60 days of the Internet cutoff amounts to losses approaching USD$3 million.
The January service disruption, now spanning more than 80 days, came as President Paul Biya’s government banned the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium and related groups who were organizing English-speaking communities in the Francophone nation.
Activists began publicly pressing for reforms in October 2016, led by Cameroonian lawyers, teachers and doctors who said they seek to address the political, economic and social inequality of Anglophone communities, a cultural rift that dates to the colonial era. The rallies and protests led to political violence, deaths, mass detentions and arrests, repression of journalists and other human rights issues.
Those arrests include the high-profile cases of organization leaders Dr. Fontem Neba and lawyer and human rights activist Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla. Their trials before a military tribunal are set to continue on April 27, in a case that now merges with at least two dozen other detained activists.
The former head of the Cameroon Bar Association has charged that the main reason for the Internet cutoff is to silence Anglophone populations, and issued a statement calling for an end to the violation of their rights under both international and Cameroonian law, the Cameroon Concord reports.