On Wednesday 27 June 2018, a group of lawyers and human rights organizations wrote to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to flag a possible breach of IMF loan terms by the government of Cameroon.
The loan, which was approved in June 2017, “aims to restore the country’s fiscal and external sustainability and unlock job-rich, private sector-driven growth.” Under its terms, Cameroon agreed to a recurring obligation to report, within two weeks, “[a]ny decision, decree, law, order or circular having economic or financial implications, from its publication date or effective date.”
It seems however that Cameroon did not report at least two instances when the government shut or slowed down internet services in certain regions of the country, which experts say would have cost millions to the country’s economy. A conservative estimate of the economic harm done places it at $3.2 million, while others estimate that the costs may have been as high as $38.8 million.
“The result is that the government’s unlawful interference with internet freedom has had a debilitating effect on the economy, affecting not only media companies but also businesses, as they are dependent upon internet for transactions and operations,” reads the letter.
“The IMF made a massive investment in Cameroon just as the country reeled from the longest recorded internet shutdown in African history. Loans signal approval to governments. Their terms are meaningless if countries like Cameroon aren’t held to account for clear violations. In this case, we’re urging the IMF to draw a connection between its large loan and the government’s continued assault on the human rights of Anglophone Cameroonians, and to use this leverage to begin redressing the many harms from Cameroon’s internet shutdowns and campaign of repression,” said Access Now General Counsel Peter Micek.