The African Cup of Nations continental football finals will go ahead as scheduled in Gabon despite the wave of riots following president Ali Bongo’s re-election, African football authorities confirmed on Thursday.
“There will be no change, we are following proceedings closely,” African football confederation media spokesman Junior Binyam stated.
The 16 nation bi-annual finals is scheduled to take place between January 14-February 5 in Gabon after original hosts Libya were stripped of the competition due to their ongoing civil conflict.
“As things stand the schedule is being maintained,” Binyam insisted. “The draw for the finals will take place at Libreville (on) October 19 as scheduled.”
However, he warned things could change.
“The situation will be debated and evaluated at the annual CAF meetings (in Cairo) between September 21-27,” he explained.
When asked if the finals could possibly be moved in the case of escalated violence, Binyam said: “The time has not yet come to discus that.”
The 2015 edition of the finals also switched venue a mere two months ahead of the finals when Morocco was stripped of hosting rights following its request to delay the tournament due to fears over the Ebola virus.
Those finals were eventually staged on schedule but in Equatorial Guinea, who also co-hosted the 2012 edition with the current 2017 hosts Gabon.
The 32 matches will take place at five venues, two of them in Libreville, one at Franceville, a fourth at Port Gentil and also at the brand new stadium at Oyem.
Overnight riots on Wednesday saw a thousand people arrested after Bongo was declared winner of disputed presidential polls.
Thousands of angry protesters poured onto the streets of Libreville late on Wednesday, accusing the government of stealing the election after Bongo won a second term by a razor-thin margin over rival Jean Ping.
His victory is set to extend the Bongo family’s almost 50-year rule over the small oil-rich nation.