AFCON: Panic as gunshots rock Cameroon city hosting Mali, Tunisia, others

Mali players

There was panic among players who are in Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations following a gun battle between forces and pro-independence fighters in Buea, capital of the restive Southern Cameroons.

It was learnt that the gun battle occurred before a match between Mali and Tunisia.

The game, which ended with confusion, saw Mali winning 1-0.

According to a Cameroonian blog, Timescape, the incident occurred less than two miles away from the Molyko sports complex where the Malian National Team was training Wednesday.

Cameroun gendarme officer was reported dead, and five other people including a lawyer wounded.

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

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

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The entity, which has no international recognition, is based on the former British Southern Cameroons, which joined Cameroon after the French colony gained independence in 1960.

More than 3,500 people have died and more than 700,000 have fled their homes. Rights monitors say atrocities and abuses have been committed by both sides. 

The Cameroon however, assured players that “safety will be guaranteed” for AFCON.

The national human rights commission and a professor of public law, James Mouangue, clarified in an interview with AFP that the part of the country hosting Nigeria is relatively safe.

“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 noted.

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

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“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.”

Cameroon has been torn by violence since October 2017, when militants declared an independent state in the northwest and southwest, home to most of the anglophone minority in the majority French-speaking country.

Both the separatists and forces have been accused of atrocities in the fighting, which has killed more than 3,000 people and forced over 700,000 to flee their homes.

Armed groups are regularly accused of abducting, killing or injuring civilians whom they accuse of “collaborating” with Cameroonian authorities. 

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