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Cameroon restores Internet to English-speaking areas after shutdown

[JURIST] Internet services were returned [CRTV report, in French] to two areas of Cameroon with English-speaking populations on Friday following a three-month shutdown, according to a state-run radio report. President Paul Biya had restricted Internet services in Northwest and Southwest regions of the country following violent, sometimes deadly [Reuters report], confrontations between English-speaking protesters and government officials in the mostly French-speaking African country. Restoration of the Internet follows condemnation over the shutdown from international human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Internet Without Borders [advocacy websites]. Cameroon Communications Director Issa Tchiroma Bakari said the Internet was being restored because the shutdown was no longer necessary, but the restrictions could be reimposed if protests continue.

The Government urges the populations of these Regions to be vigilant in order to continue to block the way for the extremists, secessionists and enemies of the Republic. It is understood that the Government of the Republic reserves the right to take, as necessary, appropriate measures to prevent the Internet from being used again to incite hatred and discord between Cameroonians or to create public order.
The shutdown began January 17, leading a UN human rights expert to refer to the situation [JURIST report] as "an appalling violation of their right to freedom of expression." The growing rift between the French and English speaking populations comes at a time when Cameroon faces many problems resulting from their military conflict with the terrorist group Boko Haram. Last July Amnesty International reported [JURIST report] on numerous human rights violations by Cameroon authorities as the country fights the insurgency of the Islamic extremist group. Cameroon's harsh practices have come in response to atrocities committed by Boko Haram which, according to a report [JURIST report] last September by AI, is accountable for the death of at least 400 civilians in Northern Cameroon. The militant Islamic group Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is a sin," has been fighting to overthrow the Nigerian government in the interest of creating an Islamist state.

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