Cameroon’s government has restored the internet to its restive Anglophone region, three months after cutting it amid protests against the predominantly French-speaking government of President Paul Biya.
Cameroonian forces cracked down on protests in the English-speaking region that erupted last October, beating and arresting protesters, some facing the death penalty in military courts.
The unrest has exposed national divisions between the regions of Cameroon historically colonised by the French and the British. It has also been a lightning rod for opposition to Biya’s 35-year rule.
“It seems conditions preceding the suspension of the internet to that part of the national territory have changed,” Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma said in a statement.
“The head of state therefore instructs the communications minister to re-establish internet connections in the north-west and south-west regions.”
Pulling the plug on the internet was a big blow for Cameroon’s ‘Silicon Mountain’, as it is called locally, a cluster of tech start-ups in the region that had been flourishing prior to the crackdown.
At least six protesters were shot dead and hundreds others arrested during the challenge to state authority, prompting criticism from human rights groups.
Activists condemned the internet shutdown as a form of collective punishment.
At the end of World War One, the League of Nations divided the former German colony of Kamerun between allied French and British victors.
After independence in 1960, voters from the smaller English-speaking zone opted to join Cameroon rather than neighbouring Nigeria, but they have often felt marginalised by the Francophone government in Yaounde.
“Finally, it’s back. I’m on Facebook right now, so I’m happy,” said a user in Bamenda after the internet was restored. “Everyone is getting back in contact to let each other know the lines are OK.”