Cameroon says that within four days, at least 1,500 football supporters have entered the country from neighboring Equatorial Guinea and Gabon to support their teams that have advanced to round 16 of the Africa Football Cup of Nations, or AFCON. Gabon will face Burkina Faso on Sunday, while Equatorial Guinea will face Mali on Wednesday. Tournament organizers require all fans to undergo COVID-19 testing before entering stadiums.]
Cameroon’s immigration police said on Saturday that buses carrying at least 900 football fans from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea entered the Central African state within 48 hours. Gabon and Equatorial Guinea are Cameroon’s southern neighbors.
Immigration police said about 600 other football fans from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea arrived in Cameroon this week by sea and air.
Cameroon says the influx came after Gabon and Equatorial Guinea qualified for the knockout stages of the Africa Football Cup of Nations, or AFCON, in Cameroon. Gabon played a 2-2 draw against Morocco in Yaoundé on Tuesday and both teams moved up.
Equatorial Guinea sealed their place after a 1-0 win against Sierra Leone in a group match played Thursday at the Limbes Omnisport Stadium in Cameroon’s Anglophone Southwest region.
Thirty-year-old Prosper Ebang is one of 1,500 supporters from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea who entered Cameroon, according to the Cameroon police. Ebang says he wants to be part of a continental football event in which his country’s national football team, the Panthers of Gabon, do well.
Ebang says no citizen who loves Gabon can be indifferent when the Panthers make Gabon proud with the excellent football on display in Cameroon during AFCON. He says he is confident Gabon will reach the AFCON final if Cameroon continues to provide a favorable environment for the games.
Felix Nguele Nguele is the governor of the southern region of Cameroon, which borders Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. He says officials from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea have informed him that hundreds of other supporters are still on their way to Cameroon.
Ngueles says he has asked the police and military on Cameroon’s southern border to ensure the safety of football fans and supporters from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. He says he knows that people with bad intentions may want to disturb the visiting supporters, as tensions between Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea increased in November.
On November 30, 2021, Cameroon said Equatorial Guinea was deporting thousands of Cameroonians living illegally in the neighboring state, citing national security concerns. Authorities in the capital Malabo said Cameroonians were fleeing the conflict in western Cameroon, where government forces are fighting the Anglophone separatists.
Videos of Cameroonians deported from Equatorial Guinea flooded social media platforms, including Facebook and WhatsApp. In the video, Cameroonians who claim to have been forcibly expelled from Equatorial Guinea pledged to pursue football fans from the neighboring country who visit Cameroon for AFCON from January 9 to February 6.
Kisito Esua is president of the non-governmental organization South West Youth League, headquartered in Limbe, an English-speaking city in the South West. Esua says the league is teaching young people to be hospitable to fans who come to Cameroon to support their football teams. He spoke through a Limbe messaging app.
“The influx of fans and supporters from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea is so huge,” Esua said. “The fans have been flocking in by air, land and sea and we think tomorrow’s turnout will be something spectacular. So we’ve made sure the environment is so friendly, cozy and conducive.”
Cameroon’s health ministry says supporters who have arrived in the past 48 hours must respect COVID-19 mitigation guidelines imposed by the Confederation of African Football. CAF says people must provide negative COVID-19 test results that are no more than 24 hours old, as well as proof that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to access stadiums for AFCON matches.
The embassies of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in Yaoundé say all visiting fans have agreed to respect Cameroonian laws and COVID-19 restrictions put in place by Cameroon and CAF during their stay.