Ambazonian Conflict threatens Cameroun’s Soccer Squad participation in 2019 Africa Cup of Nations

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By Ashu Stanislaus
AmbaNews24 Yaoundé, Cameroon

The senseless war declared by the government of French Cameroun against the legitimate independence quest of the Ambazonian people is now putting a serious financial burden to the country, as most of its revenue resources have been disrupted or drained by the war campaign. The country’s prestigious football team, who are the current African Champions, refused to board a plane to participate in the tournament scheduled to hold from June 21 to July 19 in Egypt because of payment of player bonuses. Cameroun was initially awarded the hosting right of the current tournament, but was forced to surrender it to Egypt for failing to pass readiness inspection because of financial difficulties and security concerns related to the Ambazonian War of Independence.

According to reports from the ranks of the players, the players each demanded unpaid bonuses of £53,000 (US $68,000 or the equivalence of 40million cfa in local currency). In an open letter signed to the general public by all 23 players, they listed 8 grievances that they called on the government to resolve: The grievances include:

  1. The fact that most of the players paid fully or partially their air tickets from their various professional clubs to attend the team’s training camp for the AFCON preparations.
  2. The squad also complained that during their camping in Madrid and Doha, no player, among the final 23 or the excluded 14, was paid participation premium.
  3. Another complaint listed by the team involves their camping in Doha, where they said their trip to Yaoundé and the eventual trip to Cairo were all sponsored by Qatar.
  4. The players recall that a presidential decree dating back to 2014 states clearly that all bonuses and participation fees for friendly matches and camping must be paid to the players before the start of a major tournament like the AFCON.
  5. The team regretted that despite the fact that they have even accepted a 25 per cent slash in their regular bonuses ahead of the AFCON competition, the Cameroun government still could not honor this.
  6. The Indomitable Lions equally deplored the poor communications links between them and football officials of Cameroon.
  7. This disorganisation according to them has led to the refusal of players like Joel Matip, Stephane Mbia and Nicolas Nkoulou to come to camp.
  8. The team wished that future generations of players would not suffer a similar disregard as they and those who preceded them.

The total bonuses due to the players amounts to US $1.564million (920million cfa). If the Cameroon government were to pay the 75% that the squad said they were ready to settle for, it would pay US $1.173million (690million cfa). Cash strapped and unable to afford this amount of money, despite fruitless plea from Samuel Eto’o, the Biya government sent negotiators from the Presidency to the players at the Mount Febe Hotel where they begged the Lions to accept half of the bonuses (20million cfa each) already wired into their accounts.

After long hours of negotiations, the Indomitable Lions finally left Yaoundé for Egypt where they will take on Guinea Bissau on Tuesday, June 26 in their opener; Ghana on Saturday, June 29 and will face Benin on Tuesday, July 2 in their third game of the first round.

Cameroon government’s inability to pay 690 million CFA (US $1.173million) in standing bonuses due to its football team is a reflection of the economic dilemma the Biya regime finds itself in. Cameroon was initially scheduled to host AFCON 2019. It borrowed huge sums of money and invested in constructing stadia that now stand in ruins, uncompleted because The Confederation of African Football stripped the country of its hosting rights due to instability in the country resulting from the Ambazonia War of Independence (AWI). The second largest employer in the country after the State, namely, the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) has almost shut down due to the AWI. On April 12, 2019, S&P downgraded the country’s credit rating from B to B negative. SONARA Inc., the lone oil refinery in the country in which the Cameroon government owns 96% of the shares got burnt down on June 3rd uninsured. The refinery has terminated operations for a year, further leaving the country in a revenue desert. The Ambazonia War of Independence is slowly but certainly becoming a can of worms eating Cameroon’s economy from within. How long the regime will last before it succumbs to a negotiated settlement for its own good remains to be seen in the months and maybe years ahead.