AFCON Celebration

10.01.2022 Featured Football Amid War, Why Hosting AFCON 2021 Is a Risky Move by Cameroon

Published 10th Jan, 2022

By Tola Owoyele

On Sunday, the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations kicked off in Yaounde, Cameroon. Although the tournament is being hosted in January 2022.

In an interesting display of raw African football talents and skills, the tournament’s opening match saw the host nation defeat Burkina Faso by two goals to one.

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However, amid the pomp and pageantry, and the rich display of football artistry, hosting AFCON is a risky move by Cameroon because of a war that has lingered for five years in the country.


Between 1884 and 1916, Cameroon was under German colonial rule. However, after the defeat of the central powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire by allied powers comprising Great Britain, the United States, France and Japan, among others, in the first world war in 1918, Cameroon was wrestled from the grip of Germany.

Subsequently, the allied powers partitioned the Central African country, handing a portion to France and the other to Great Britain.

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The part under France gained independence in 1960. One year later, Great Britain, with a firm resolve not to make the English-controlled part of Cameroon an independent state, held a referendum.

At the end of the referendum, the northern part of the British-controlled Cameroon joined Nigeria, while the southern part joined the already sovereign French-speaking part.

Because of these significant events, Cameroon has a predominantly French-speaking east and a predominantly English-speaking west.


Since its merger with the French-speaking part, Cameroon west has been complaining about marginalisation, and they want the government, led by Paul Biya, who has been president since 1982, to come to their rescue.

One of its agitations is the recognition of the English Language in public administration, as guaranteed by the constitution.

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Another complaint was the level of underdevelopment in the region. The Anglophone Cameroonians want the government to do more by improving their standards of living and providing basic amenities and infrastructures.

The people of the region believe that despite the extraction of crude oil from their lands, the government only uses the benefits to develop the French region.

In 2016, things took a violent turn.


Cameroonians from the western part eventually took to the streets in 2016, protesting the incessant marginalisation by the government. Responding, the government deployed security agents to the region to suppress the demonstrations.

Things spiraled out of control when several people were brutalised and shot at in the process. Four foremost separatist groups, Ambazonia Defense Forces, Ambazonia Self-Defense Council, African People’s Liberation and Southern Cameroon Defense Forces, emerged from the region.

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The separatist groups declared that the western part had ceased to be part of Cameroon and would be known as an independent republic called Ambazonia.

The secessionist groups constantly attacked military formations and bomb important government establishments. With time, what began as a mere protest became a full-blown civil war that has resulted in the loss of many lives.


Limbe, a sea-side city in the western part of Cameroon will host matches in the ongoing tournament. It is the only English-speaking region that will host an AFCON activity..

On January 12, the city will host Group F matches involving Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia.

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Meanwhile, Limbe has witnessed many deadly clashes between the separatist groups and the country’s military forces. These clashes have seen millions flee the oil rich city. While the Cameroonian government has promised adequate security while matches are being hosted in the city, separatists have threatened to bomb several locations in the course of the tournament.

Last week, a bomb went off in the city, but there was no casualty.

AFCON, which started on Sunday, is expected to run until February 6.

Published 10th Jan, 2022

By Tola Owoyele


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