Saturday, January 09, 2010

African Nations' Cup must be withdrawn from Cabinda

As reported here yesterday, militants in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda attacked a bus carrying the Togolese national soccer team, killing the bus driver, the team's press officer and an assistant coach. Some reports have indicated that a fourth victim, one of the team's goalkeepers, has also died. The team was on its way from a training camp to the African Nations Cup tournament, which is being hosted in four venues in Angola, including Cabinda city.

Despite unconscionable pressure from PR-conscious Angolan officials and representatives from the African soccer confederation CAF, the Togolese team has withdrawn from the tournament.

Cabinda, which is separated from mainland Angola by DR Congo's territory, is the country's oil heartland and is also the source of a small but violent separatist movement. Given that Cabinda's instability was no secret, it was criminally irresponsible for the tournament organizers to schedule matches in Cabinda and for CAF to allow it.

Officials have already stated that the Nations' Cup will go on. However for the security of fans, the press and players, matches scheduled for Cabinda must be moved to the other venues in mainland Angola. This includes all matches in Group B (involving two of the continent's most prominent teams, Ivory Coast and Ghana, as well as Burkina Faso) as well as one quarterfinal match.

All yet, there is no indication that this blindingly obvious decision will be made. CAF already has the blood of four deaths on its hands. Does it want more?


Update: There is some speculation on Twitter that Ghana may also pull out.

Further updates: According to AFP, the Togolese players have decided to defy their government's decision and participate in the tournament. CAF has insisted stubbornly and stupidly that matches will be played as scheduled in Cabinda, despite the rebels announcing that they would step up military attacks.

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