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Anglophone separatists and jihadists pose threat to Cameroon CAN

Anglophone separatists and jihadists pose threat to Cameroon CAN
Cameroon players celebrate their team’s goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying round Group D football match between Malawi and Cameroon at the Orlando Stadium in   -  
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PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP or licensors

Cameroon

There are threats by armed Anglophone separatists to disrupt the 2021 African Cup of Nations which is expected to open in Cameroon on Sunday.

Some armed groups have vowed to disrupt the competition and sent threatening letters to the teams in Group F (Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia) who will play in Limbe and train in Buea, the seaside resort and capital of the south-west region respectively.

"The threats are very serious," said Blaise Chamango, head of the NGO Human Is Right, based in Buea. "On Wednesday, there was an explosion in Limbe in a takeaway, it is a strong message," he said by phone to AFP.

"The government has deployed heavily armed soldiers on almost all the intersections of Buea and Limbe in particular. The defence and security forces are carrying out arrests and systematic searches in several areas," Chamango said.

Already, there are speculations of a possible postponement of the tournament due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the new wave of the Omicron variant.

For the past four years, the regions - inhabited mainly by the Anglophone minority - of the South-West and North-West have been in the midst of a bloody conflict between armed groups demanding independence and the security forces, who have carried out a ruthless crackdown.

According to international NGOs and the United Nations, the violence has left more than 3,500 people dead and more than 700,000 displaced in the west, mainly civilians.

President Paul Biya, on Friday, mentioned "several cases of surrender" in the armed groups. But they "continue to engage in criminal activities, multiplying attacks with improvised explosive devices and murders of unarmed civilians", warned the head of state, who is criticised by NGOs for being absolutely inflexible on the issue of the Anglophone regions.

In the face of the threat, the government repeatedly insists that "security will be ensured".

- Arrangements" -

In the capital Yaounde, some 250 km east of the border with the English-speaking areas, the atmosphere was relaxed with few security agents observing the final preparations around the brand new stadium of Olembe, built purposely for the CAN.

"The security situation is really only a concern in the North West and South West but I think our defence forces have enough experience to deal with it," said James Mouangue Kobila, president of the Human Rights Commission and professor of public law.

"The security arrangements are exceptional considering the stakes and we had the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in January 2021 without incident," he argues.

Cameroon also faces another threat, in the far north, with jihadist attacks, which have however decreased in intensity since the death last May of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram.

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