Equatorial Guinea will host football’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, the Confederation of African Federations have announced.
Original hosts Morocco were stripped of hosting rights of the January 17 to February 8 tournament after insisting on a postponement due to the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa.
The CAF refused to postpone the event and Morocco failed to confirm its commitment by last week’s deadline, forcing the continent’s governing body to seek new hosts.
Equatorial Guinea co-hosted the CAN with Gabon in 2012.
The decision to step in at short notice followed a meeting in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, between the country’s president Teodoro Obiang and veteran CAF president Issa Hayatou.
Hayatou was quick to express his gratitude to President Obiang for agreeing to his country stepping into the breach at the 11th hour.
“To agree to organise a competition like this two months before the event, you must admit you really have to be a true African,” Hayatou said.
He also indicated that the draw for the competition would be held in Malabo on December 3.
Equatorial Guinea also drew praise from African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
“The Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone should not paralyse continental programs and events,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
“Like many other challenges the continent has faced in the past, the Ebola outbreak is being surmounted and is by no means a reason to stall the African Cup of Nations.
“Football is a unique unifying force of our continent and the world. We look forward to once again coming together and celebrating Africa together in the exhilarating 2015 AFCON tournament in Equatorial Guinea.
“We should remember that we have fought and defeated many tragedies including HIV/AIDS whose spread has been significantly halted. We will defeat Ebola.”
Morocco have been barred from the competition for failing to fulfil their obligations.
While Equatorial Guinea’s agreement may have spared CAF blushes, it won’t be a popular choice among human rights groups.
Equatorial Guinea is regarded as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, being ranked 163rd out of 175 by Transparency International.
Obiang came to power in a 1979 military coup and has ruled with an iron fist ever since, being accused of the violent oppression of any form of opposition.
He won the last elections in 2009 with 95.37 percent of the votes.
He is being investigated in France and the United States for money laundering and abuse of public funds, among other accusations.