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.
The shutdown has targeted Bamenda and Buea, two regions which are home to most of the country's English-speaking minority. Citizens there have long said they’re marginalised by the central government in Yaoundé, the French-speaking capital.
“The Anglophone problem" dates back to the end of colonialism in the 1960s.
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.
Cameroonians have responded creatively by setting up internet “refugee camps" where the data is always flowing.
But there are also fears such repression can cross borders.
US watchdog Freedom House found last year that governments curbed social media communications in 24 countries last year, up from 15 the previous year.
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.
1. Bring back the internet
2. Free all the arrested
3. National Dialogue