Yaounde — Cameroonian authorities have vowed a safe African Football Cup of Nations when they host the biennial tournament in January. Cameroon’s Anglophone separatists have threatened further attacks on two towns that have stadiums to be used for group matches.
Cameroon’s police, military and senior government officials have been holding meetings to ensure a successful African Football Cup of Nations, AFCON, which runs from January 9 to February 6.
On Thursday, Cameroon assembled its 10 regional governors in the capital to examine the country’s readiness to host 24 African soccer teams, officials and thousands of fans expected for the tournaments.
Paul Atanga Nji is Cameroon’s territorial administration minister and permanent secretary of its National Security Council. He says President Paul Biya ordered the meeting to make sure Cameroon gives Africa and the world the most successful AFCON the continent has ever seen.
Nji says Biya does not want the games to be disrupted by separatists and politicians, whom he accused of wanting to project a bad image of Cameroon to the outside world.
“We have told politicians that Cameroonians want a peaceful CAN [AFCON]. Politicians should be reasonable. All Cameroonians should be ambassadors behind our great leader, President Paul Biya, to make this AFCON a great event. Any attempt to disrupt public order will be dealt with squarely. I am very clear, the regional governors have taken up the challenge to promote peace, unity, tranquility, and living together during the AFCON.”
Nji specifically accused opposition leader Maurice Kamto, who still insists he won the 2018 presidential elections, of planning to disrupt the games.
But Kamto says he will be educating civilians on the need for Cameroon to revise its electoral code, which he says favors Biya, during the AFCON matches.
Meanwhile, separatist groups on social media platforms have issued warnings that AFCON matches should not be played in Limbe and Buea, two towns in the South-West region.
Langmi Nestor, spokesperson of the separatist Ambazonia National Self Defense Council says fighters have been instructed to disrupt the games if Biya does not withdraw its troops fighting separatists in the English-speaking western regions.
“Biya must either come to the negotiation table [with separatists] or we give sleepless nights. The freedom of the people of Ambazonia is far more important than any nonsense in the name of the African Nations Cup.”
Armed groups have been fighting to separate Cameroon’s two English-speaking western regions from the rest of Cameroon and its French-speaking majority for the past five years.
This week, defense officials said extra troops have been deployed to protect soccer fans and players all over Cameroon and vowed the matches in Limbe and Buea would go on.
The military says it has deployed troops to the border between French-speaking and English-speaking regions to stop rebels from advancing during AFCON. The military says it is calling on civilians to assist in maintaining peace during AFCON by reporting strangers and suspicious activity in towns and villages.
AFCON’S opening match is a contest between Burkina Faso and Cameroon, a five-time Africa Cup of Nations champion.