When will Biya’s ‘ostrich internet economy’ stop?

The eye-service that characterizes the epileptic internet connectivity in Anglophone Cameroon is becoming too noticeable as the facility is momentarily available only whenever an August guest comes to town. For many months, the English speaking part of the country has been arbitrarily and without any explanation to the teeming users of the internet in English speaking Cameroon from any state official, not even by the Government’s spokesperson, been deprived of this near indispensable modern day communication tool.

When the internet blackout was first imposed in the Northwest and Southwest Regions in early 2017, when the Anglophone crisis was spiraling, it lasted for about three months and was only grudgingly restored through a Presidential fiat following harsh criticisms the regime was bombarded with from within and outside Cameroon.

Though no official reason was advanced for the action, many conjured that it was because social media was helping to escalate the crisis to the dissatisfaction of regime barons and their lackeys.

But when the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications reassured the Anglophone population of no further selective, nay, punitive internet seizure; given that it inflicted devastating effects not only on the economy of the affected Regions but the entire country, the people thought she was sincere. They were wrong. Dead wrong!

Barely days after the minister’s apparent yarn was spun, people West of the Mungo where again brashly cut off from the facility. The situation has now lasted for about half a year and the people are forced to accept it as a reward for hailing, belonging or living in this part of the country.

The question they are asking is why the temporary internet camouflaging whenever an important foreign guest is to step foot on Anglophone Cameroon?

First, it was when the United Nations, UN Secretary General, SG, en route to the Central Africa Republic made a stopover in Yaounde. When it was rumoured he would be in Buea, internet was immediately restored just for that day. The second instance was during the visit of the Commonwealth Secretary General, SG, Patricia Scotland. Internet was briefly restored in Buea, ostensibly for her exclusive use while her stay in this town lasted. And now, on Wednesday, January 17, and Thursday, January 18, the same show was enacted when the Confederation of African Football, CAF, stopped by for infrastructural inspection. As soon as the team checked out of town, those who rule the internet roost decided that the blackout be routinely truncated.

The situation has at once been baffling and angering many. Others are asking what the Government is up to. Some like Essowoh Denise, a Buea city dweller have been quick to analyze the phenomenon as hypocritical and punitive. “The Government is playing the hypocrite and punishing us. It wants the world to judge our claims of internet close down in the Northwest and Southwest as false,” he said.

Njemfoh Ebessu Romanus is not comfortable with the scenario and prays that internet connectivity be restored to full capacity. He said since its reinstatement and unlike previously when connections lasted only for as long as the August guest was in town, he hopes things get back to normalcy.

As we write, there is very partial internet connection in the Southwest and Northwest Regions.  It is only with the help of an application known as Very Personal Network, VPN, that one can access the various social media platforms.

One thing however, is certain. Come 2019 and the hosting date of the African Nations Cup by Cameroon, Anglophones shall surely benefit from at least, one month of internet connectivity. Reason? Foreign journalists, dignitaries and other visitors to the games would be greatly considered by a regime playing hide and seek with its own citizens and the ostrich with international interests.

By Nester Asonganyi

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