When four West African neighbours were drawn to play in group “B” of the African Cup of Nations in the enclave of Cabinda, pundits named it the “group of death”. But they were far from imagining that someone will die from gun-shot wounds two days before the kick-off of the tournament.
Although there are conflicting reports of the death toll in the Togolese delegation, it is now known that an two members of the Togolese delegation were killed following an assault on the coach transporting. [NB: update after initial reports that Angolan driver died from gun-shot wounds were denied]
No. The group of death referred to football rivalry. Now, it means real death.
“We were machine-gunned, like dogs,” a Togo player, Thomas Dossevi, said. “At the border with Angola – machine-gunned! I don’t know why. I thought it was some rebels. We were under the seats of the bus for 20 minutes, trying to get away from the bullets,” he said in a phone-in to French radio RMC and Infosport TV channel.
“We just want to go home” midfielder Alaixys Romao told French television channel InfoSport. A hint that Togo might want to pull out of the continent’s biggest sport event.
Risks of more attacks
“We regret that it’s the bus from Togo that was targeted,” Rodrigues Mingas, the Secretary General of FLEC/military wing told Infosport in a telephone interview.
“We did not deliberately fire on a bus of players. It would have just as well have been the Ivorians’ bus, the bus from anyone … We are at war, all shots are allowed. Angola wants the world to believe that there is an effective peace in Cabinda, But there is no peace… And we had warned CAF,” he said.
The oil-rich province of Cabinda which lies between DR Congo (Kinshasha) and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) is cut off from the rest of Angola. It has been in turmoil for years as FLEC
rebels fought for the region’s independence. From the official Angolan perspective the rebellion laid down arms in 2006.
Critics had asked why the Confederation of African Football (CAF)
should hand the organisation of such a top class tournament to a country just out of war and accept that a hot-bed like Cabinda should be a host region.
Angola had dismissed these worries and opted to host a group in this enclave to prove to the world that everything was alright. How they turn things around now will be a real herculian feat.
Are the football associations of Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana and especially Togo ready to risk leading their young men and officials into any potential ambush?
French television has already quoted new Manchester City midfielder, Patrick Vierra as saying that “if the attack leads to the death of any player the competition should be called-off”.
What would Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Moumouni Dagano or Kanu Nwanko say?
Will he cancel the tournament as some personalities are advising? How would that go down to the investors who have staked their economies on the competition? Are the millions of Angolans and their Government going to stand such a decision?
A middle of the road solution would be to allow the Togolese to withdraw from the competition (given the shock), pull-out of Cabinda and ensure that the group B games are played in Luanda or elswhere. As simple as it sounds, such a switch entails a complete overhaul of the organisation only three days to the first games in Group “B” that were supposed to take place on Monday 11 January.
Many questions still need to be answered. Why in this day and age were the Togolese traveling by road in the bush from Congo-Brazzaville to Cabinda (Angola)? It seems the “touristic initiative” to drive into Angola was planned by authorities given that there was an Angolan security escort and even a TV crew.
Why did CAF not advise against such a move? Reports suggest that they were unaware – but how? How could they be unaware while Angolan authorities were organising welcome convoys?
Death has struck. Another African party has turned sour. Africa didn’t need this as it embarked on a re-branding effort through football with the hosting of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa next June.
Frenchman Henri Stambouli, a former Togo coach, speaking as “an expert on Africa” told Infosport
that he was expecting such an event to rather happen in South Africa. A statement which got the presenter all worried saying “that is not reasurring” for the World Cup.