Saturday, January 30, 2010

Criminally moronic CAF add insult to injury... and death

There've been many reasons that Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Issa Hayatou should be sacked. The quality of football on the continent has improved dramatically since the Cameroonian took over way back in 1988. He re-shaped the continent's premier club tournament into a more high profile African Champions League. The international African Nations Cup has dramatically gained in prestige and importance in the last two decades.

But under Hayatou's reign, CAF has spectacularly failed to capitalized on the increased interest in the Champions League and especially the Nations' Cup. The tournaments are almost impossible to find on television anywhere.

Despite intense interest outside the continent, the Nations Cup is only available in most countries via an expensive online scheme. I have no idea if the Champions League is available at all.

CAF has made some egregious decisions in awarding the Nations' Cup. Tournaments, such as the 2008 edition in Ghana, are often plagued by organizational difficulties. The continental body inexplicably awarded the 2012 Nations' Cup jointly to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, two of the most corrupt countries in the world, the latter being closed and repressive on a par with North Korea or Burma.

The awarding of the current year's tournament to Angola was less egregious, except for CAF allowing matches to be held in the unstable province of Cabinda, a decision which had deadly consequences.

A bus carrying the Togolese national team was attacked by Cabindan rebels as it crossed the border from Congo-Brazzaville into Cabinda, where it was playing first round matches. Three members of the Togolese entourage were killed and one of its goalkeepers seriously injured in the attack; naturally the other members of the team were badly shaken.

CAF and Angola's dictatorship initially tried the Kremlin approach, but denying that any attack took place at all. It was just a ruptured tire, they said. Because noise from a blown tire lasts 20 minutes.

Finally, the "organizers" admitted that the gun attack took place by placed blame squarely on the shoulders of the Togolese. They said Togo should've flown to the Angolan capital Luanda and then to Cabinda, rather than go overland. They gave no explanation of why they allowed tournament matches to be held in a place that was not safe to drive in.

After some discussion, the Togolese government ordered its shell-shocked players to come home, since the criminally negligent authorities in Angola and CAF quite obviously couldn't guarantee anyone's security.

Rather than an apology for forcing players to play in a war-afflicted province or showing understanding toward witnesses to a massacre, CAF has incomprehensibly suspended Togo from the next two Nations' Cups.

CAF is complicit via negligence in the deaths of the three members of Togo's delegation. And yet it's Togo who is punished for being the only ones who gave a damn about their players' safety. Or maybe Togo's fault is having been stupid enough to trust the judgment of the morons at CAF and the Angolan dictatorship's spinmeisters.

For this whole series of criminal stupidity, Issa Hayatou and the entire CAF executive committee should be sacked... to say nothing of lifting the ban of the victims of this whole affair, the Togolese team.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Power sharing accord reportedly to be signed but Guinea remains tense and military split

Republished with permission from Friends of Guinea's blog

Note: Events have been moving quickly in Guinea in recent weeks. You are encouraged to subscribe (follow) our Twitter feed, which is updated several times a day. It can be found at @friendsofguinea on Twitter or

The head of Guinea's military junta Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara was flown from Morocco to Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou. Dadis had spent a month in hospital in the North African country after being wounded in an assassination attempt. Reports indicate that Dadis thought he was being flown directly to Conakry and was furious when he realized otherwise. Supporters of the junta leader have demanded he be returned to Guinea.

The International Criminal Court is investigating Dadis' alleged role in the September 28, 2009 massacres in Conakry; the report of a UN inquiry into the killings is available here.

Morocco is not a part of the ICC while Burkina Faso is. Additional, Burkina Faso's leader Blaise Compaore is mediating in the Guinean crisis on behalf of the West African regional grouping ECOWAS. Speculation is that these reasons played a role in Morocco's decision to send Dadis to Ouagadougou.

In the absence of Capt. Dadis, Guinea's acting leader has been the more moderate defense minister Gen. Sekouba Konate. Konate threatened to resign if Dadis did not compromise on terms to a transition to civilian rule.

Splits in the army remain
, with supporters of Dadis wanting the charismatic captain to remain in power indefinitely while Gen. Konate and others want to return civilian constitutional order as quickly as possible. A spokesman for Konate said, "The general has made it very clear that he is not interested in staying in power. He made it very clear that he is there to restore discipline within the army and create conditions for a transition.

Meanwhile, Guinea's southern neighbors are worried about the effects of any civil strife on their country. A member of Sierra Leone's parliament warned that if the Republic of Guinea should explode, Sierra Leone would be consumed in less than a week; and if the situation in Guinea is not treated seriously, Sierra Leone's survival and livelihood as a state would be affected.

Today, Radio France Internationale reports that an accord was signed in Burkina Faso, between Dadis and Konate, whereby Dadis would remain in 'convalescence' and elections would be scheduled in six months. The AP has this as well. The BBC added that the accord stated that Dadis would support the transition to civilian rule.

Alliance Guinea reported that Dadis had accepted the principle of a prime minister from the opposition and that Saratou Sara Diallo and long time opposition figure Jean-Marie Dore were the two names it had proposed.

Update: al-Jazeera adds that the accord bans members of the junta as well as any active military serviceman from standing in the elections.

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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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Friday, January 08, 2010

Togolese national team shot

There are reports out (BBC, AP) that Togo's national soccer team's bus has been attacked by gunmen and several team members and staff have been injured. The team was traveling from Congo-Brazzaville, where it had been training, to Angola, for the upcoming African Nations Cup. The incident occurred in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda, which is separated from the rest of Angola by a sliver of DR Congo territory. Cabinda has been plagued by militants fighting for the independence of the oil-rich enclave.

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