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AFCON 2019 Kicks Off Amidst Security Concerns  

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nation (AFCON) will kick- off today in Cario, Egypt, with 24 teams participating for the first time in an expanded format amidst security concerns. 

Egypt will host the Cup of Nations for the fifth time as was chosen ahead of South Africa after Cameroon was stripped of its hosting duties by the Confederation of African Football. The tournament will run from today to 19 July 2019.Lea

LEADERSHIP Friday recalled that the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi, has extended an already imposed state of emergency for 3 additional months, back on April 25th, 2019.

Since April 2017, this is the 7th time the state of emergency is being renewed amongst concerns over security challenges facing the country.

What came as a surprise however was the extension of the emergency law while Egypt is expected to host the biggest African football event of the year. The action may also be interpreted as a step towards providing the maximum levels of security during the competition.

In this context, the tourist bus bombing of May 19th, where thankfully no deaths were recorded, comes as a warning that more measures need to be taken in order to avoid such attacks during the competition. It also calls into question the capacity of the country to effectively secure the 24 teams involved in the competition, without forgetting their respective fans.

What is more worrying for the observers is that this is the second incident in the space of six months, after three Vietnamese tourists were killed in a similar attack back in December 2018.

On the other hand, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) says there is no reason to panic and backed the Egyptian authorities to be up to the task of hosting a safe Africa Cup of Nations. Up until the incident, the main headline in Egypt was the experimentation of 5G networks during the competition. However, this latest attack has shifted the focus towards security concerns.

The situation is claimed to be “under control According to Ndivhuwo Mabaya, DIRCO spokesperson, this latest incident should not prevent South Africans attending the Africa Cup of Nations, nor bring into question the Egyptian’s ability to host the tournament. “We call on South Africans to go in numbers and support their team at the Africa Cup of Nations and believe the Egyptian authorities have the capacity to successfully guard the games‚” Mabaya told TimesLIVE on Monday.

The DIRCO spokesperson further added: “we feel there is no need to panic‚ we have faith in the Egyptian law enforcement agencies to handle the situation and we understand that these types of things do happen. In these situations‚ you should judge a country by its response to the incident and we have complete faith in the Egyptian authorities in this regard.”

The thesis is one of an isolated incident, which, until now, has not been claimed by any faction. The fact is, the country is still living the effects of the Arab Spring and attendances at local league games remain limited and closely monitored by the Egyptian authorities.

It be will noted that Egypt’s former President Mohamed Morsi on Monday died after appearing in court in the capital, Cairo,  as the 67-year-old collapsed in a defendants’ cage in the courtroom and was pronounced dead in hospital at 4:50pm local time.

  In a mass protests, his supporters say the charges against him were politically motivated.

The former president’s son, Abdullah Mohamed Morsi, told Reuters news agency that the family did not know the location of his body. He added that the authorities had refused to allow Morsi be buried at his family’s cemetery.

Human Rights Watch called the news of Morsi’s death “terrible” but “entirely predictable”, citing the government’s “failure to allow him adequate medical care”.

“The government of Egypt today bears responsibility for his death, given their failure to provide him with adequate medical care or basic prisoner rights,” the group said in a statement.

The Super Eagles team coordinator Pascal Patrick, who spoke to LEADERSHIP Friday on phone from the team based camp in Egypt, said that heavy security is being attached to the Super Eagles team and other participating countries.

Patrick said, “The situation here is very good, the Egyptian Police are escorting us from our hotel to the training ground, and there are heavy security present at our training ground.

“Outside the hotel one cannot move an inch without the security leading the person to the place they want to go, so they don’t allow anybody going anywhere without their knowledge.

“Even before we left our training camp at Ismailia where we did our second camping, when we were coming to Alexandria about 10 Police van followed us,  that is to show that the organisers are serious about the security of the participating teams, and don’t take chances of anything”.

According to him “We haven’t hear anything about protests in the city because everywhere around city thee are heavy security presence to secure lives and property” he concluded.

Total Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2019 kicks off when hosts Egypt lock horns with Zimbabwe today in the opening match at Cairo International Stadium as  Group A curtain raiser is set to start at 8:00pm Nigerian time  after a scheduled opening ceremony that starts a couple of hours earlier.

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About Ayeni Wale

Olawale Ayeni, is a Media and Communication Arts, Masters in view fellow, a graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Abuja respectively, has been in journalism right from his school days. He was a sports broadcaster with Osun state Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC). He was Sports Editor, Daily Stream Newspaper before joining Leadership Newspaper as Sports Correspondent. A lover of grassroots sports development and golf. A strong support of Arsenal FC.

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