Sunday, 10 September 2017

A Trip To Cameroon and Why They Can’t Host AFCON 2019

Cameroon's internal Gordian knots are hard to ignore ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. After Super Eagles 4-0 drubbing of African champions, Cameroon in Uyo on Friday, September 1, I and some journalists made the trip to Yaoundé for the return leg.

For the trip to Yaoundé, my aim was to have the feel of the country which has been slated to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament.

Cameroon was announced as host of the AFCON 2019 in September 2014 after the final vote at a Confederation of African Football (CAF) Executive Committee meeting.

However, there have been doubts if Cameroon can host the AFCON following the increase of AFCON teams from 16 to 24 and the move of the tournament date from January/February to June/July.

Although unconnected to the changes, my trip to Cameroon has brought about unease about Cameroon as a good choice to host the AFCON for the first time since 1972.

Getting into Cameroon for the Super Eagles return leg against the Indomitable Lions was difficult and stressful for Nigerian journalists.

By air, there is no direct flight from Lagos to Yaoundé, which is absurd considering that the two cities are just 944 kilometres apart.

This is the flight route of ASKY Airlines from Lagos to Yaoundé.

Lagos →Lome (Togo) →Libreville (Gabon) → Yaoundé (Cameroon).

ASKY Airlines route from Yaoundé to Lagos goes like this.

Yaoundé→ Libreville→Abuja→Lome→Lagos.

These routes in total are about five hours each, with the stop overs in transit taking about more than 10 hours. A two-way-trip from Lagos to Yaoundé cost about $1000, that’s more than N300, 000 and for a country that’s just a ‘stone throw away’ from Nigeria’s that’s expensive.
The dearth of proper channels for inter country travelling in Africa is not a Cameroon-Nigeria problem. It's a problem that affects the whole of the continent which has been the bane of football tourism in Africa.

It gets worse when you go to Cameroon by road.

Journalists who made the trip from Uyo to Yaoundé had a hard time after crossing the Mfum River at Ikom in Cross River State.

They were made to sleep at the border by a tough female officer who refused them entry. The next day they set off from the border to Bamenda where they were to take a bus to Yaoundé.

The four, five-hour journey from the border town to Bamenda was tough for the journalists due to several stops-every 10-15 kilometres- by hostile soldiers and policemen.

At every stop, the journalists were made to come down and provide documents. They only avoided paying bribes at these stops because of their press affiliations.

They didn't arrive Bamenda early enough to get a bus to Yaoundé and had to get to another town Bafoussam from where they got a bus to the capital city of Cameroon, Yaoundé.

The return trip was also the same due to restrictions to movements all over Cameroon. From Yaoundé, buses leave to Bamenda just twice a day, at 10 am and 10 pm.

For a country that wants to host the AFCON, Cameroon currently has so many constraints. The regimented movement, travelling and heavy policing around the country (especially the English-speaking parts) is not for security purposes from my own understanding rather for intimidating its citizens by the dictator-like style of government from their President of more than 30 years Paul Biya.

Imagine fans from different countries going through these curbs like these journalist.

The saving grace for Cameroon was FECAFOOT, Cameroon’s football federation who were excellent with the visiting journalists.

From accreditation before the game to the fantastic hosting inside the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaoundé, journalists were provided with a good working space and an access to a Wifi with fast internet to cover the game.

The stadium was also well organised with different gates for fans to have smooth entry.

These show that they know how to host a good game, the successful hosting of the 2016 Africa Women's Cup of Nations (AWCON) is also a testament to that.

Cameroon's internal political Gordian knots are however hard to ignore ahead of AFCON 2019 and I hope CAF look into that before making a final decision. A Trip To Cameroon and Why They Can’t Host AFCON 2019.