8 February 2017

Cameroon: Lions' AFCON 2017 Triumph Unites Divided Cameroon

Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Cameroon celebrates winning the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations 2017 in Gabon.

The African Union on Tuesday congratulated the Indomitable Lions for their 2-1 victory against Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations. Cameroon's players were given a hero's welcome as they landed back on home soil on Monday.

The Indomitable Lions were very much the outsiders at the start of the Africa Cup of Nations, which kicked off three weeks ago.

Today they're being celebrated as the Champions of Africa after their stunning 2-1 victory over Egypt in Sunday's CAN final.

Their last Cup of Nations final appearance was back in 2008, when a side featuring striker Samuel Eto'o lost 1-0 to the same Egyptian team in Accra, Ghana.

Eto'o, now 35, was among the crowd in Libreville on Sunday and later tweeted: "Champions of Africa!! Today the Cup of Nations, tomorrow the Confed Cup!!!"

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Champions d'Afrique!! Aujourd'hui la #CAN2017, demain la #ConfedCup!!!

- Samuel Eto'o (@setoo9) 5 février 2017

Fresh from winning their fifth trophy, Cameroon's players were given a hero's welcome as they landed back on home soil on Monday.

For Mbang Sama, who runs a Cameroonian Diaspora organization in Germany, the Lions didn't just lift a trophy but the country's hopes of greater unity.

"We are really proud of our team and our country," he told RFI on Tuesday.

"This is an example for the youth and for us," he said in reference to the ongoing protests in Cameroon's English-speaking regions over the use of French in courts and schools.

Euphoria now, problems later

"I remember during the game we were sitting together with colleagues and friends from the different regions, the so-called Anglophone, the so-called Francophone, and we could forget all these issues and I think for everyone this victory is welcome," said Sama.

The "issues" he implies, are to do with the perceived discrimination felt by the country's Anglophone minority.

Nearly 60 years after Cameroon's independence, reunification remains difficult.

Signs of this were visible last month, when the government shut down the internet in its two main English-speaking regions.

This was in response to the successful internet campaign of Anglophone civil society groups that led to several cities being declared "ghost towns" and closed down by protesters.

"The Indomitable Lions' victory will probably contribute to breaking the dynamic of the Anglophone ghost town movement," Hans De Marie Heungoup, a political scientist with International Crisis Group, told RFI.

"But it will have little impact in the long run. It neither addresses the structural grievances that have fueled the crisis nor on the Anglophone resentment of marginalisation and appeal for federalism."

"Of course a game is not enough to solve all the problems," admits Sama. "But based on this game, we can recognise the important values we all share, of how to reach common goals, as a team and, of course, as a nation."

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