The Confederation of African Football (Caf) stripped Cameroon of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament rights to avoid the 2010 experience where some players came under attack by Angola's Cabinda separatists, besides the delays in infrastructural preparations, confederation President Ahmad Ahmad disclosed.
Gunmen attacked a bus transporting the Togolese national team to the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Angola, killing three people and wounding many others. The attackers fired at the vehicle when it crossed from the Republic of Congo into Angola's oil-rich enclave of Cabinda. Rebels who were fighting for the independence of the region, later claimed responsibility.
In an interview on the pan-African television channel, the Afrique Media on Monday night, Ahmad said Caf paid dearly for the Cabinda incident and "can't take that risk again," for Cameroon that is facing two major security threats; the Boko Haram insurgency in the north, and an armed separatist movement in the two English speaking regions.
He said all 20 members of the Caf executive committee, who were present in Accra, Ghana on Friday, unanimously agreed that it was not possible to stage the 2019 tournament in Cameroon and asked the Central African country to continue preparations to host the 2021 edition because scheduled hosts, Cote d'Ivoire, would not be ready by then.
"We have seen that Cote d'Ivoire will not be ready to host Afcon in 2021. So the executive committee has confirmed Cameroon as host of 2021 ... We have taken the decision for the good of African football on the basis of rules and regulations of the game in force," Ahmad said, promising Caf could be ready to defend it's decision should Cameroon petition the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Caf president denied reports that the withdrawal of the hosting rights from Cameroon was scores-settling with his predecessor Issa Hayatou, saying he has never personally criticised the management of the continental soccer body by the latter.
The entire world
"Even when journalists tried repeatedly to urge me to comment on his [Issa Hayatou] reign, I always avoided it and told them it was their role, not mine. It is not possible that withdrawing Caf 2019 from Cameroon implies I'm settling scores with my predecessor, a Cameroonian," Ahmad stated.
The Cameroon government has said work on the infrastructure for the competition would continue at same pace, despite the "surprising decision" by the continental body.
"This decision is unmerited considering the resolve of the Head of State and the people of Cameroon to make all-out effort to host a remarkable celebration of African football in 2019," Communication minister and government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary said.
"Cameroon has put in a creditable performance. It shall prove it to the entire world by completing with the same determination and on time the construction of these modern infrastructures belonging to the Cameroonian people, as pledged by the Head of State," he promised.