STATEMENT: Postpone Afcon 2015 – Catholic Bishops

We, the members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, have followed with keen interest and attention the public discussions on whether the 2015 African Cup of Nations (AFCON 2015) should be postponed or not in view of the threat posed by the spread of the Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) in West Africa and elsewhere and have come to the conclusion that it will not be prudent to hold the biennial football tournament in the coming year.

We, therefore, wish to add our voice to the numerous calls made by many other people and groups for the postponement of the tournament scheduled for next year.

Confederation of African Football (CAF) should heed the Morocco Appeal

We know that Morocco, which was billed to host AFCON 2015, has appealed to the organizers of the tournament, the Confederation of African Football, to postpone the tournament in view of the threat posed by Ebola, which has currently killed more than 4,600 people, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, where all efforts to contain the disease have yielded minimal results. We are also aware that CAF has rejected the appeal to postpone the tournament, explaining that since its inception in 1957 the tournament has never been postponed and has gone ahead to request South Africa and Ghana to be on standby in case Morocco is not persuaded to rescind its decision.

While it is commendable that there has been such a consistency in the holding of the Nations Cup all these years, it must be pointed out that the dynamics are different this time round because human lives are at stake due to the rapid spread of the deadly Ebola disease.

Ghana Must Not Host AFCON 2015

Of the two nations CAF has requested to be on standby to host tournament, South Africa has come out boldly to reject the offer. Ghana, on the other hand, is yet to take a decision even though the pronouncements of the Youth and Sports Minister seem to favour the hosting of the tournament. The indecision on the matter has so far brought us into a state of anxiety and nebulousness, even as many calls continue to advocate the postponement of the tournament by CAF. We support these calls.

In our candid opinion, Ghana should not host the tournament. The tournament is just two and half months away and we sincerely think that, apart from the health concern we have expressed, we will not be able to undertake all the necessary logistical and infrastructural preparations before the tournament starts in mid-January next year. The stadia in Accra and Sekondi, for example, need urgent repairs and renovation. Besides renovating these stadia, the on-going construction of the Cape Coast Stadium needs to be expedited and given the needed attention. What about training pitches, hotels and guest houses and buses to transport teams and supporters? Will they all be ready within this short time?

Additionally, we think that with the current economic situation of our country, it will not be a good idea to commit resources within the limited time frame to host such an event. We are aware of the demands of some teachers and nurses for the payment of their salary arrears, some of which have been paid for only three months out of 18 months; we recognize that the payment to NHIS is still in arrears; we know that some statutory payments, including District Assembly Common funds, have not been made, among others. The hosting of CAN 2015, therefore, should neither be the preoccupation nor the contemplation of Ghana for now.

The threat posed by Ebola

Besides our concerns with the state of readiness and the limited time available to us, we wish to reiterate the real and palpable threat posed by Ebola in our sub-region. The World Health Organisation has named Ghana and 14 other countries as the likely destinations of the disease. In the event that Ghana hosts the tournament, we will be increasing the risk of the entry and spread of the disease in our homeland because of the mass congregation of people who may be attending the games.

In the present circumstances, we are of the opinion that we need to concentrate our attention on our status as the Ebola Response Centre for the sub-region and expedite efforts to help contain and deal with the disease. It is in the light of this that we passionately appeal to Government to continue the renovation works at the Ridge Hospital, the setting up of Ebola centres at Tema and all the Regional Hospitals, the acquisition of the needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), the training of medical staff on the use of the PPEs, the handling of cases and the continuous screening of all people arriving in the country, while taking the necessary measures to screen all who enter the country through the borders.

Conclusion

We live in challenging times due to the threat of Ebola and so we must take the necessary precaution to handle the disease till such a time when we can safely say that the worst is over. Until that time, we think that anything that can increase the threat of the spread of the disease should be avoided as much as possible and that is certainly true of the hosting of the Cup of Nations.

We support the calls of individuals and groups that are advocating the postponement of CAN 2015 and urge CAF to heed these calls. Ghana should not consider hosting the games should Morocco pull out. The dangers are too obvious. We trust that our Government will listen to our appeal and act accordingly.

SIGNED

MOST REV. JOSEPH OSEI-BONSU

BISHOP OF KONONGO-MAMPONG &

PRESIDENT, GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE

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