According to Georges Ngole Mpoudi, CIO of the mobile network operator MTN, the company has restored its Twitter SMS service which was shut down 10 days ago on the orders of the Cameroon government, supposedly for reasons of "state security". He made the announcement via Twitter late this evening. [This information has also been confirmed by Twitter]
Although details about this government volte face are still emerging, observers point to the huge amount of international bad press ( Le Monde, Jeune Afrique, Foreign Policy/Washington Post, Committee to Protect Journalists, Global Voices, Yahoo News, etc.) that the Biya regime has received in recent days over its crackdown of a marginal service which is yet to gain a foothold in Cameroon.
Accusations of government censorship and of trying to stave off an Egypt-style uprising touched a raw nerve among Cameroonian authorities, many of whom were hard pressed to explain the rationale behind the Twitter SMS ban. For example, although he confessed to AFP that "he did not have 'perfect knowledge of the situation' surrounding MTN's Twitter suspension", Government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma nonetheless tried to justify the ban by declaring that "it is the government's responsibility to protect the nation." Same with Jean-Pierre Biyiti bi Essam, Minister of Post and Telecommunications, who also justified the ban by arguing that the problem was not with communications networks themselves but with their (subversive) content.
In my initial post on this issue, I had pointed out that:
Before today’s ban, very few Cameroonians were even aware that Twitter was available in Cameroon via SMS, and the majority of those who were did not even grasp its potential as a tool for political activism.
Without doubt, Twitter will surely get a new lease of life in Cameroon thanks to the actions of overzealous government officials who are always eager to silence real or imagined dissent for reasons of "national security" rather than engage dissenters in the public sphere over issues of national concern.