BY SIMON NDIVE KALLA
Barely two days to the start of the African Nations Championship, CHAN in Cameroon the competitionhaving the twin barrels of escalating violence in the South West and North West regions and the lingering COVID-19 pandemic staring it in the face.
Authorities are having sleepless nights to make sure the tournament billed from January 16 to February 7, 2021 rolls on hitch-free.
All attention shall be focussed on Limbe which is hosting one of the groups alongside Buea which shall be used for lodging and training for some teams.
The insecurity situation which seemed to have calmed towards the end of 2020 has deteriorated over the last week with both the separatists and military killing civilians in vtowns nad villages across the South West and North West regions.
For over four years now separatists have engaged government forces in an atrocious war whch is claiming a lot of innocent lives as the international community looks unmoved by the human tragedy piling up.
With calls for boycott of the games in Fako, by separatist groups, a lot of uncertainty hangs in the air.
Another big challenge is the COVID-19 pandemic which started last year world wide and halted most sporting activities.
The competition was supposed to take place in April 2020, but the outbreak of the coronavirus saw the games postponed to this month. The tournament will start from January 16 to February 7, 2021.
Despite the scary challenges, the government of Cameroon looks unperturbed and is determined to carry on with the tournament. It has invested momey and men to make sure the CHAN 2021 be very successful and serves as a dress rehearsal for AFCON 2022 which is a personal challenge to the Head of State, President Paul Biya.
It should be noted that Cameroon was denied hosting the tournament in 2019 due to security concerns and it took a lot of lobbying by Yaounde for the tournament not to be taken away from Cameroon permanently.
The authorities have stepped up security in Fako Division with unconfirmed reports tallking of over 600 troops posted in the Division both in combat and civilian attires.
To respect COVID-19 restrictions, attendance at stadiums for the group matches have been pegged at 25 percent capacity.
To be sure that all is set, ministers have been taking the tounds to visit the hosting cities. A few weeks ago the Prime Minister, Head of Government, Chief Joseph Dion Ngute was in Yaounde, Douala and Limbe. He was preceded by the Minister of Urban Development and Housing, Celestine Ketcha Courtes.
On Tueday, January 12, Minister of Transport Jean Ernest Ngalle Bibehe was in Limbe and expressed satisfaction on the state of projects under his ministry ahead of CHAN 2021 in Limbe.
The one day visit took the transport minister to the parking lots of the Limbe Omnisport stadium which is one of the sites earmarked to host group D matches
Under the direction of its stadium Director, Mme Pascaline Mbua, the minister and his entourage went round the various parking lots which include the VIP parking lot with a capacity of 398 vehicles and close to it is the lot reserved for medical team, medical ambulance, top military personal and the bus transporting players.
Out of the stadium is the North parking with a capacity of 1,389 space while southern parking lot can host some 891 cars. “Therefore as far as the parking lot is concerned Limbe Omnisport stadium has the capacity to successfully host this competition with little or no worries as far as parking is concerned” Mme Pascaline Mbua told the Minister.
The minister of transport’s second stop was at the deliberating chambers of the Limbe City Council where he met with some major stakeholders including transport syndicates to evaluate their state of preparedness ahead of the competition and to hand-over some 50 competence certificates to cab drivers from Limbe, Buea and Tiko
Minister Ernest Ngalle Bibehe saluted the contribution of bike riders in transport sector as they transport persons from urban to areas where accessibility is difficult. But he however caution them to respect the highway code, wear helmets, put on prescribed matriculated jackets according to their council area, avoid the consumption of narcotics, drugs and above all be in possession of a driving license.
On the part of cab-drivers the minister prescribed appropriate hygiene, sanitation and technical state of the vehicles ahead of CHAN, respect for their passengers, as well as respect traffic lights and be in possession of a license of competency while taxis without legal matriculated number and plates will be punished in the days ahead.
While for the Inter- urban transport sector the transport boss urged them to respect speed limits which according to statistics is responsible for 2/3 road accidents in the country citing the recent Ndikimiki accident as an example.
Close to 50 persons lost their lifes in that accidennt. He asked them to avoid overloading ,respect road signs and to obtain road worthy certificates from approved technical centers.
Speaking on behalf of the syndicate of transporters in the region, the secretary general, Stephen Arrey, saluted the idea of the introduction of Licence of Competency which will permit the transporter to have mastery in his area of circulation especially as the cities of Limbe and Buea will be welcoming strangers in their municipality as the CHAN kicks off in the days ahead.
He, however, called on the government to rehabilitate degraded roads on our major highways, put in place and replace old road signs, amongst others
The Competence Licence were obtained by some drivers who applied and under took a two-week training under the supervision of the regional delegation of transport for the Southwest.
Welcoming the minister and his entourage, the City Mayor to the Limbe City Council Andrew Motanga Mojimba, thanked the government for yet another opportunity given to Limbe to host another international tournament after the Women’s African Cup of Nations in 2016. ” During the Women AFCON we did but also learnt our lessons and we are ready to do our best again to make our nation proud”, says the Limbe City Mayor. He called on the government through the minister to support their efforts as one of the major challenges during the AFCON was transportation of spectectors to and from the Limbe Omnisport stadium during games .
The Transport Minister held a closed door working session with the City Mayor of Limbe and his technical staff as the city prepares to welcome football fans from across the continent
Before their departure back from Limbe the Transport Minister made a brief stop at the drivers license production unit at PRESSPRINT
Cameroon’s intermediate lions will host the warriors of Zimbabwe on Saturday January 16, 2021, in the opening game of the 2020 African Nations championship.
The Warriors-Cameroon game is a Group A encounter and will be played at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaoundé.
Match 1: Cameroon vs Zimbabwe – 6 pm, 16 Jan 2021 (Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaoundé)
Match 2: Burkina Faso vs Zimbabwe – 9 pm, 20 Jan 2021 (Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaoundé)
Match 3: Zimbabwe vs Mali – 9 pm, 24 Jan 2021 (Japoma Stadium, Douala)