Bamenda Plunged Into Cyber-darkness

(Finance District) Bamenda city

(Finance District) Bamenda city

 

 

The City of Bamenda, the biggest English speaking town in Cameroon is experiencing an internet blackout for the past four days, causing businesses and even government offices millions of Francs CFA in loss.

Though no official reason has been advanced, its widely believe that internet service providers have been forced by the state Telecommunication Regulatory Agency (ART) to suspend all data services as security forces try to stop a popular uprising against Yaoundé  and to permit them arrest the leaders of the protest  without risking another street uprising.

Orange Cameroon informed its subscribers of the disruption through SMS. “Dear customers, for reasons beyond our control internet services are not available. Thank you for your understanding” the message read. An official of MTN Cameroon who opted to remain anonymous told Bamenda Online that they were forced by government to suspend all data services indefinitely until when ordered to do otherwise.

Late on Tuesday night, internet services in the entire Northwest and Southwest regions of the country were blocked and millions of users could not access services like Whatsapp, Facebook, e-mails and the worldwide web.  Akamai Technologies Inc., a US-based internet content delivery firm, in a tweet on Wednesday mentioned there was a noted disruption of internet traffic at 20:45 GMT (11:45 p.m. EAT) last night, while Dyn Research also in a tweet shared a graph showing a drop in internet connections in the country.

Akamai Internet traffic to Cameroon

Akamai Internet traffic to Cameroon

Graph showing internet data outages in Cameroon by Dyn

Graph showing internet data outages in Cameroon by Dyn

The internet blackout in major urban centres like Bamenda, Limbe, Kumba, Buea, Kumbo and Muyuka has caused untold hardship to businesses. Major companies like CamCCUL, Moneygram, Express Exchange, Express Union, PMUC, PressPrint, Les Brasseries Du Cameroon, Universities, banks and Credit Unions, NGOs and major retail companies are unable to function smoothly with some resulting to other means to communicate with other branches, carryout money transfer and issue directives and submit reports.

Others are moving into neigbouring towns like Douala and Bafoussam to work on the net. As one drives from the Northwest into the West Region of the country for example, you will find full data network coverage after Nkongbu, a couple of kilometers away from Matazem in the Northwest region.

The blackout has had a tremendous impact on the Anglophone cause as many can no longer communicate or exchange messages which the Yaoundé authorities believe is fueling the strike. It was also during this blackout that Anglophone leaders championing the struggle for a two state federation, Dr Fontem Niba, Bar. Felix Nkongho and Mancho Bibixy where arrested in Bamenda and Buea and transferred to Yaoundé.

Its highly believed in Yaoundé that the strike action by lawyers and teachers that has turned into a popular uprising is been spearheaded by those arrested, and that with their arrest the ghost towns that have paralysed government services and businesses will cease, and schools will resume by Monday. But reports from the field indicates the contrary, parents are still unwilling to send their children to schools when the demands put forward by lawyers and teachers are still not met, there is a cry against marginalization of Anglophones which the authorities have given a deaf ear to so far and the continued arrest of those that were bold enough to stand for Anglophone rights, a concerned parent told in Santa.

 It’s not clear when the internet blackout will be lifted but the call for another crippling ghost town as from Monday 23 January is still highly supported. If turn out to be successful like the previous ones, this will leave the authorities in Yaoundé dumbfounded and short of strategies to counter the uprising as they strongly believe that the population is being manipulated through the internet. Schools are yet to reopened, and the remaining Teachers’ trade union leaders not yet arrested have maintained their stance that there would be no school come Monday.

This has proved to be another headache for Yaoundé as 11 February approaches. If they fail to get schools reopened by then, then the Anglophones would have scored a major punch, one that would instead help rally the masses and truncate the push for a two state federation in Cameroon.

By Abongwa Fozo

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