African Nations Cup Comment: Move The Matches, But Let The Games Continue!

The Togo bus was attacked by terrorists, but the African event should not be stopped because of it.
A voice from Africa calls for continuation...

In the afternoon, a horrifying rumour came from Angolan news outlets that the Togolese delegation, on their way from Pointe-Noire to Cabinda had been victim of a robbery attempt by some Congolese gangs.

Then the rumours turned into proper news when it was verified that the Togo team bus was attacked and allegedly the victim of an ambush in the Cabinda province of Angola.

Then the news started pouring in our RSS feeds, the ambush was actually an organised attack, a terrorist statement. Cabinda, annexed by Angola as soon as they gained their independence in 1975 has been in a very bitter - and probably one of Africa's bloodiest wars - conflict with Angolan forces has remained ever since.

After more than 30 years of a seemingly endless civil war, a treaty was signed in 2008 for the cessation of all armed activities from the independentists and the beginning of negotiations with the Angolan government.

If the situation was calm up until then, there was turmoil at the beginning of the year when dissident movement inside the FLEC (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda) warned that the situation was not peaceful enough for the Angolan government to organise games of the AFCON in "their" territory and that they wouldn't let it happen.

Now the consequence of this obvious attempt at grabbing international attention and putting the Angolan government on blast has worked as everyone involved is blaming one another. We now are certain that among the nine injured, one of the two drivers was killed, two players were shot, as well as doctors and a coach.

But what will be the price to pay for African football?

When we need him the most, President Issa Hayatou and his consigliere seem to have dropped the ball once again. By blaming the Togolese FA who picked to travel by bus instead of by plane, he disregards the most important issue, which is that perhaps Angola should have never gotten the African Cup of Nations in the first place.

A mere six months before the biggest sports tournament in the continent's history, African football has never been this scrutinised, this followed world-wide. Never has there been this much money and this many opportunities for the sport on the continent. And unfortunately for us all, never have we looked this amateur-ish.

By putting these global superstar in the crossfire between Angolan forces and rebels, CAF has failed us all. In the middle of a European debate where some of the most powerful clubs are behaving abjectly, pressuring some of their players to voice their discontent with the timing of the competition, with the risk of seeing their image falter (Kolo Toure is the latest in the long list of players who hold a double-discourse while speaking to the European media and his country's press), we don't need these types of incidents happening.

This will bring more water to the well of neo-colonialists all around and fuel the idea of 'Africans being Africans.' So in the wake of such a cold, calculating and despicable act, we must stick together and face adversity head on. We need to send out the strongest of messages, that these festivities will keep on going.

No, of course this attack should have never happened. Of course this should have been avoided by the Angolan government. But this competition needs to be showcased. Not because the terrorists might have won otherwise, they already did, but because the African Game needs this. We need it.

We need it much more than the millions of dollars announcers sign in the posh palaces of Cairo, we need this much more than the infrastructures that are built to cater the visitors. We need this because we need to see our heroes up close. Our kids need to see their idols play where they come from. We need our warriors home for once and we need to root for them throughout the tournament.

So Mr Hayatou, let the show continue. Once the competition ends, please take the hint and relieve yourself from your position. In a year that will stay tainted forever as the one where players were stoned in Egypt than shot in Cabinda, if one person needs to be held accountable it needs to be him.    

Let us all pray for our brothers from Togo, distressed I am sure by the recent events, let us pray that this attack was the last one we'll see. Let's take a deep breath and bow our heads to pay homage to their driver, let us all rise as one people as the 2010 African Cup of Nations begins on Sunday.

Massaër Ndiaye,

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