The 2010 African Cup of Nations will not be remembered for its football, but for the tragedy that befell the Togolese team. Angola's government and the Confederation of African Football have much to answer forby David Goldblatt / February 1, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
The 2010 African Cup of Nations concluded on Sunday night with Egypt beating Ghana 1-0 in Luanda. For the Egyptians—who took their seventh nations cup overall, and their third in a row—it was a wild night of celebration and confirmation that, despite failing to qualify for the World Cup, they are the best team in Africa. But there are thin football pickings for the rest of us. It was a tight, nervous final for most of the 90 minutes. A young Ghanaian team, depleted of its stars by injury, showed discipline and grit. In the earlier rounds Malawi and Zambia played above themselves, Nigeria, Cameroon and Cote D’Ivoire below. Algeria utterly and theatrically lost their heads against Egypt. The tournament, however, will not be remembered for the quality of its football or its tantrums, but for the tragedy that befell the Togolese team.
The widely-reported 30-minute gun attack on the Togolese squad’s convoy in the small town of Cabina, the Friday before the tournament started, saw three people killed and one seriously injured. The Togolese, not surprisingly, returned home and were accordingly disqualified from the tournament.
Responsibility for the attack was claimed by a number of nationalist groups who seek independence for Cabinda from Angola. Cabindans have never accepted their inclusion in Angola; they certainly weren’t consulted when the Portuguese hurriedly departed in 1975. During the long and bitter civil war, a faction of the Cabinda separatist rebel group, the Front for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda (FLEC) flourished. After 2002, however, when the main war ended, the government was able to turn its attention to this oil and gold rich province: Cabinda produces over a third of Angola’s oil. Almost none of the money this generates has been spent there, save for the very substantial military presence.
Over the next two years FLEC was militarily squeezed and a peace treaty signed in 2006. This, it seems, made the country safe for int…