Security fears loom over AFCON


After overcoming fears of postponement due to the Covid pandemic, the Africa Cup of Nations now faces its subsequent massive fear: safety.

Host nation Cameroon will ceremonially launch the month-long match on Sunday after they face Burkina Faso.

But the authorities are combating separatist gunmen within the west and jihadist raiders within the north — and a few fear militants will seize the nation’s flip within the sporting highlight to launch assaults.

Security forces within the west are on excessive alert after armed teams despatched threatening messages to groups in Group F, gathering Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia.

The 4 groups are scheduled to play within the coastal city of Limbe, and their coaching web site is Buea, a hotspot of separatist unrest.

“The threats are very serious,” Blaise Chamango, head of an NGO in Buea referred to as Human Is Right, informed AFP by telephone.

“On Wednesday, there was an explosion in a takeaway outlet in Limbe. That sent a very powerful message.”

He added: “The government has stationed heavily armed soldiers at nearly all the crossroads in Buea and Limbe. Security and defence forces are arresting and searching everyone they see in some districts.”

Buea is the capital of the Southwest Region, which with the neighbouring Northwest Region is within the grip of violence sparked by a bid by Cameroon’s anglophone minority to secede from the French-majority nation.

After years of frustration at perceived discrimination, separatists declared a “Federal Republic of Ambazonia” in October 2017.

The entity, which has no worldwide recognition, is predicated on the previous British Southern Cameroons, which joined Cameroon after the French colony gained independence in 1960.

More than 3,500 folks have died and greater than 700,000 have fled their houses. Rights screens say atrocities and abuses have been dedicated by each side.

In his New Year’s message, Cameroon’s veteran hardline president, 88-year-old Paul Biya, warned that whereas some independence fighters had handed themselves in, the militants “continue to engage in criminal activity, increasing their use of improvised explosives and killing unarmed civilians”.

The authorities’s mantra is that “safety will be guaranteed” for AFCON, though neither the authorities nor the Confederation of African Football (CAF) responded to AFP requests for info on safety measures.

On Monday, the ambiance within the capital, Yaounde, was extra relaxed than within the troubled English-speaking areas some 250 kilometres (150 miles) to the west.

A handful of safety brokers saved half an eye fixed on closing preparations on the brand-new Paul Biya Stadium within the district of Olembe, constructed specifically for the CAN and home to the Cameroonian nationwide squad.

“Security is only really a concern in the Northwest and Southwest regions and I think our defence forces have enough experience to respond adequately,” mentioned James Mouangue, head of the nationwide human rights fee and a professor of public legislation.

“The security measures put in place are exceptional, given the level of risk, and there were no problems when we hosted the African Nations Championship in January 2021,” he famous.

Separatist militants usually are not the one spectre haunting Cameroon.

The nation’s Far North area, the tongue of land that touches on the troubled Lake Chad area, has up to now suffered cross-border raids by jihadists from neighbouring Nigeria.

Attacks have fallen again since militants from Boko Haram and the West African department of the so-called Islamic State group (ISWAP) started a bloody internecine battle.

But some fear the teams might search to seize consideration by putting in Yaounde, the financial hub Douala or the north itself.

Others, although, say such plans could also be an excessive amount of of a stretch.

“I don’t think the jihadists can disrupt the Cup unless they carry out a really large attack, even though that remains a possibility,” mentioned Guibai Gatama, editor of northern Cameroon’s main twice-weekly publication, L’Oeil du Sahel (The Eye of the Sahel).

“The stadium in the North where Group D (comprising Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan and Guinea Bissau) will play is located in Garoua, which is very far from their sphere of operation.”

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