Cameroon’s South West Region is being defended by armored vehicles as they patrol the streets of Limbe, Cameroon. This is ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations soccer finals that separatist militants are threatening to disrupt.
Cameroon hosts the tournament in six cities. However, security is most at risk in Limbe. Limbe is a city on the coast of the tropical Atlantic coast. The surrounding area has been subject to armed attacks ever since 2017’s war. The conflict in which armed groups attempt to create a breakaway state called Ambazonia has left at least 3,000 dead and forced nearly one million people to flee.
Separatists are increasing their use of improvised bombs, causing violence to worsen. Honore Kuma, a local journalist, stated that she fears that the recent explosions of bombs in other areas could become a common occurrence during the AFCON period.
The tournament is not without its problems. Insecurity and concerns about the availability of stadiums and the spread the omicron COVID-19 version have been the focus of media attention in recent weeks. Limbe’s Omnisport Stadium will be hosting matches from Group F, which includes Tunisia, Mali and Mauritania. On Jan. 12, the group’s first match will be between Tunisia & Mali.
Buea, the region capital where Group F training will be held, was hit twice in November, one in a university and one in Buea itself, injuring 11 students. Authorities have not disclosed security plans, but they promised that there would be no disruption to Group-F matches.
Major intersections have already been manned by armed police officers, gendarmes, soldiers, and other security personnel. Checkpoints have already been set up along the streets leading into the city. “AFCON will be held in very good conditions. “There are no grounds to be concerned,” said Emmanuel Ledoux Engamba (a senior official from Fako territory that includes Limbe and Buea).
The separatist conflict started in the English-speaking North West, and southwest regions in 2016, when lawyers and teachers protested against what they perceived as their marginalization by the predominantly French-speaking government. The movement was radicalized after a violent crackdown by security officers. Within the forests and cocoa plantations, armed groups formed.
Limbe is gearing up for an influx, but some Limbe residents aren’t focusing on soccer. “How can I enjoy it while my sisters and brothers are suffering because the Anglophone Crisis? Roland, 33 years old, lives near the Limbe stadium.
(This story is not edited by Devdiscourse staff.