EGYPT 2019 AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS

EGYPT TO HOST THE 2019 AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS

Egypt will host this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) which will take place between June 21 and July 19, 2019. For the first time in the tournament’s history, 24 teams will participate, a significant increase from 16 participating teams in the past. Egypt was overwhelmingly voted as host country in January 2019, after the tournament was initially scheduled to be held in Cameroon, who faced delays in the delivery of infrastructure and security concerns over the Boko Haram insurgency in the country. 

Another first surrounding the AFCON is that previously it was held during the months of January and February, and now will be held during the summer months so as to not affect the players’ responsibilities to their clubs. Egypt last hosted the competition in 2006. 

SECURITY CHALLENGES

Since the Egyptian uprising in 2011 that culminated in the deposal of long-time President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has been undergoing a period of political, security and economic instability. In 2012, following riots and violent clashes with the police where 72 Al-Ahly fans died, football attendance was banned out of fears of a security breakdown. While the ban was supposed to be lifted in 2015, a stampede at the 30 June Stadium that led to the death of 22 Zamalek fans resulted in the re-imposition of the ban. For their part, fans claim that the ban was politically motivated as Al-Ahly and Zamalek fans are thought to have been instrumental during the Arab Spring uprising and argue they have been targeted in a political crackdown as a result, with many fans sent to jail on terror-related charges. Limited attendance has been allowed since September 2018, however, the hardcore fans remain barred from entering the stadiums. The 2019 AFCON will be the first time Egypt hosts an international tournament since football fans were banned, while another issue of concern is the monitoring of chants. 

A state of emergency has been in place in Egypt since April 2017, following deadly attacks on the Coptic St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria and St. George in Tanta city, Gharbia governorate, on Palm Sunday, resulting in the killing of 45 people. The state of emergency was renewed for the eighth time on April 25, 2019, for a further three months. 

The government is working around the clock to renovate some of the stadiums and set up electronic gates in the entrances as well as build new routes and increase transport lines to facilitate movement to and from the arenas. In the meantime, those visiting the country have the option to purchase packages that include tours across historical and touristic Egyptian sites. 

The high influx of football supporters with diverse backgrounds poses a significant opportunity for militant groups, such as ISIS’ Sinai Province, to target state infrastructure and historical and tourist sites at a time when Cairo is struggling to claim a hegemonic posture in the African continent, and attract foreign investment outside the oil and gas industry. 

The increase of participating teams from 16 to 24 poses an extra challenge for the state security apparatus to provide coordinated and timely security during accommodation, transport and public appearances of the football missions. The presence of security and military forces in the host cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Ismailia and Suez will be extensive. Extra security checks on the roads leading to the venues are expected to be set up and as a result further burden the already congested traffic. 

On May 29, the President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Ahmad Ahmad, said on a trip to South Africa that a security committee was formed to address the security concerns faced by participating countries. The issue of security has become increasingly pertinent following a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Giza that targeted a tourist bus, near the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza on May 19. The attack was not claimed by any group, however, it resembles a December 2018 IED attack that targeted a bus with Vietnamese tourists abroad that was also not claimed by any militant organisation. 

Militant groups operating in Egypt have so far prioritised security and military personnel and infrastructure as their primary targets, however, the recent attacks against tourists indicate a concerning trend of militant groups attempting to sabotage the state’s efforts to establish stability and attract tourism and foreign investment. 

Security presence is expected to be heightened in the areas surrounding the stadiums, as well as the hotels hosting football missions and supporters. The high influx of supporters from across Africa is expected to cause increased traffic in the main arteries leading to the stadiums, while police patrols will be monitoring the area for suspicious activity, and security checks will inspect passing vehicles. Tensions between opposing team supporters cannot be ruled out. 

Domestic and transnational militant groups have yet to issue any direct threats surrounding the 2019 AFCON. ICESERVE24 will continue monitoring and report on any last-minute security-related developments. 

To receive a comprehensive security assessment ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, contact us at info@iceserve24.com

ICESERVE24‘S RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Plan daily trips in advance to avoid congested routes due to football games.
  • Carry personal identification at all times.
  • Expect additional wait time to clear security checks and passport control at airports, and security checks at railway stations and border crossings.
  • Maintain a low profile and avoid clothing with flags, regalia, insignia or local football club jerseys.
  • If travelling, arrive at the airport three hours prior to flight to avoid delay due to heavy congestion.
  • Arrive early to matches to allow enough time for bag searches, screening areas and delayed traffic.
  • Embassies and consulates are unlikely to respond swiftly to general queries or passport services, as they are not equipped to handle large influxes.
  • Pay attention to abnormal changes in people’s behaviour and the environment surrounding them.
  • Cooperate with the authorities in the event of a vehicle inspection.
  • Subscribe to ICESERVE24’s ICEALERTS 24/7 critical incident alerts application and ICETRACK satellite tracking to be informed of important incidents occurring across the country.

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