No fewer than 206 network transmission sites belonging to MTN have been destroyed as increasingly bold armed separatists battle with government troops in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon.
As the secessionists – dubbed Amba Boys – pursue their mission to create an independent state they will call “Federal Republic of Ambazonia (Southern Cameroons)”, their actions have left the North West and South West Regions with intermittent network access – and in some parts, there is no longer any mobile telephone network coverage.
In an interview with NewsWatch, Massey Njiti Bongang, Corporate Communications Manager at MTN Cameroon, said, “A total of 206 MTN sites have been vandalized since April 2018 and/or down because of difficulties to access them for maintenance for reasons of insecurity, making the network coverage poor or almost inexistent in some areas in the North West and South West Regions.
Disgruntled residents have reportedly vandalized network installations because they believe telecoms operators, including MTN, had on at least two occasions in 2017 conspired with the government to disrupt the internet in their regions. MTN is the most popular network in the North West and South West Regions.
MTN has vowed to restore services soon and say they have already reinstated 33 sites with plans to get the other 173 sites up and running, “without putting human life in danger.”
The Cameroon Private-sector Investors and Employers Association (GICAM) said the telecommunication sector is one of the most hit in the long-drawn conflict, “with the systematic destruction of antennas, transmission sites and a geometric fall in turnover.”
In a July 2018 report, GICAM said that telcos in the North West and South West Regions experienced a FCFA 1 billion monthly deficit in turnover and FCFA 300 million worth of equipment destroyed. Out of a total of 618 antennas and transmission sites in the restive areas, 114 were fully or partially destroyed as of July 31, 2018, the report disclosed.
The poor network quality is also attributed to multiple cuts of the optical fibre owned and managed by state-owned Cameroon Telecommunications (Camtel).