Attack on Togo Nat’l Team in Angola

2010 should be a great year for African football, but so far it has come off to a bad start, after Friday’s attack on the bus of Togo’s National Team in Angola’s Cabinda Province. The team was traveling to the CAN venue in Cabinda City in a bus with a police escort. The convoy was attacked by Cabinda’s separatist rebels, the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC). A gun battle ensued between the FLEC and the police escort in which the Angolan bus driver and two of the team’s staff died. This horrible attack has cast a shadow of security concerns over the Cup of African Nations, which began today.

It appears as though the organizers made a mistake locating a venue for the event in the troubled province of Cabinda. The organizers said they did not expect anyone traveling overland to Cabinda Province (which is separated from the rest of Angola), and they insist that the city is perfectly safe. Yet, this incident makes me question their judgment with regards to the safety of the players. Cabinda Province has a long tradition of separatist ambitions, and the FLEC has a long history of guerrilla attacks for the cause of independence. So either the Angolan organizers totally underestimated the potential for violence, or they ignored it. Either way, this does not bode well for the CAN, and especially the events in Cabinda. Togo decided to withdraw the team and send the players home, as it appears that the organizers were not able to convince them that they would be safe.

Quite unfairly, this tragedy has also cast a shadow over the World Cup in South Africa this year. Clearly, the situation in South Africa is very different from Angola, and from Cabinda in particular. But to many outside Africa this raises questions about the wisdom of locating a major international event anywhere on the African continent. To many, Africa is synonymous with social unrest and violent conflict, to a large degree because that’s all the media ever report about Africa.  Would anyone ever seriously consider not locating a major international event in, say, North America, because a terrorist tried to blow up a US-bound plane?

Of course, South Africa is not Germany, Japan, Korea or the United States. The crime statistics are a lot worse and traffic is more accident-prone than in those countries. I can say that from personal experience, having driven in South Africa, as well as all over Europe, the US and large parts of North and West Africa. But I think that South Africa also has the resources to deal with these issues and make sure that visitors are safe. I think the biggest challenge will be to beef up the emergency response resources. Police, medical and fire-fighting resources seemed sorely lacking in South Africa, especially in the countryside. And SA organizers have to ensure that when an accident occurs, well-trained first responders are available in reasonable time.

Despite the tragedy in Cabinda, I think there is still hope for South Africa to show the world a different side of Africa, and for African football for have a great, successful year.

For now, however, we extend our condolences to the families of the victims of the attack, and to the Togolese team.

One Response to “Attack on Togo Nat’l Team in Angola”

  1. Agbessi Says:

    Yeah I also think SA still has the chance to organize a good World Cup.