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Cameroon May Rethink Before Shutting Down Internet Next Time

The president ordered the restoration of internet today after calls from many national and international organisation including the UN The…

The president ordered the restoration of internet today after calls from many national and international organisation including the UN

The African Network Information Center, AFRINIC; the internet numbers registry for Africa based in Mauritius, has made a policy proposal to sanction governments and other bodies in Africa which shut down the internet for whatsoever reasons.

Should the proposal be adopted during a public policy meeting in Kenya, May 29-June 2, then recalcitrant governments, including that of 84-year old Biya, would have to rethink before shutting down the internet. Cameroon for the first time shut down the internet on January 17, 2017, in the North West and South West Regions and has since then maintained the blackout despite widespread criticisms.

The shutdown has caused Cameroon over $1.39million, as at February, to go by Access Now. Going by the policy proposal, countries which tamper with the internet would at the end of such shut down not be allocated an IP address for one year. We gathered the suggested sanction extends to the transfer of addresses to government-owned structures within the one year period.

In case any African government cuts the internet three or more times within ten years, AFRINIC proposal suggests that all services provided to such countries be revoked, with no allocations offered for a period of five years. The proposal was co-authored and submitted to AFRINIC by Ben Roberts, CEO of Liquid Telecom Kenya, Andrew Alston, Liquid’s group head of IP strategy, and Fiona Asonga, CEO of the Telecommunications Service Providers’ Association of Kenya. AFRINIC notes on its website that “over the last few years, we have seen more and more governments shutting down the free and open access to the internet in order to push political and other agendas.

These shutdowns have been shown to cause economic damage and hurt the citizens of the affected countries. “While the authors of this policy acknowledge that what is proposed is draconian in nature, we feel that the time has come for action to be taken, rather than just bland statements that have shown to have little or no effect.”

According to Ben Roberts, Africa just can’t sustain internet outages of any kind since its experiencing a technology revolution driven by the internet. If the proposal passes, Roberts told a US based news organ that “governments may think twice” before shutting down the internet and will start thinking of the internet as “an essential service just like water and electricity.” Lately, internet shutdowns have become rampant across Africa, with 11 cases recorded last year.

Cameroon now stands out as the country with the longest internet shutdown in Africa, a phenomenon which has attracted unwanted global attention to Biya’s 33 year old regime.

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