Michael Trapido
Michael Trapido

Angola were negligent in allowing Togo team bus into Cabinda

Innocent Togo footballers were made to pay a heavy price for Angola’s lack of foresight when their team bus came under attack in Cabinda on Friday. While Manchester City’s Emmanuel Adebayor emerged unharmed, two players were among the nine injured and the driver was killed.

The team bus, as it crossed the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo into the Angolan enclave, came under heavy machine gun fire in an attack that lasted around a nightmarish 15 minutes.

In truth, the team should never have been exposed to this danger.

Cabinda is a province of Angola which is physically separated from the rest of the country by a thin strip of the DRC. Modern Cabinda is the result of a fusion of three kingdoms: N’Goyo, Loango and Kakongo. It has a population of 357 576 (estimated in 2006) with a near even split between total rural and urban populations. An estimated one third of Cabindans are refugees living in the DRC.

When Angola achieved independence from Portugal in 1975, Cabinda, despite its own distinct and separate identity, history and culture, was made part of it. Cabindan separatists, comprising around 12 organisations — three of which are armed — demanded independence for the enclave. The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) claimed its own independence from Portugal and set up a government with Luiz Ranque as the president.

Angola government forces backed by Cuban troops took control of the province.

While FLEC has splintered and a ceasefire was achieved in 2004, the attacks have simply kept on rolling. In recent months FLEC has confirmed a number of attacks on the military and foreign oil and construction workers in the province.

In light of the above, how Angola could have allowed a team of foreign players into the area during the Africa Cup of Nations is something their intelligence and security forces are going to have to answer.

In March 2009 in what Imran Kahn described as “one of the worst security failures in Pakistan”, gunmen attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team on its way to play in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

At least six policemen escorting the team bus were killed, along with a driver. Seven cricketers and an assistant coach were injured.

Ominously, officials said that the incident bore similarities to deadly attacks in Mumbai in India during November 2008

Accordingly, a number of messages should have hit home. Firstly, that terrorist and militant groups are learning how to inflict deadly harm with maximum impact from each other. Secondly — and here’s the rub — sportsmen and women are considered to be primary targets.

The issues of whether the tournament will proceed or not — and Togo’s participation — will be settled shortly.

What must settle now in the minds of Angola and South Africa — with Soccer World Cup on its way — and the rest of the world, is that big sporting events are primary targets for terrorists and have to be treated accordingly.

Angola has confirmed that it is now beefing up security, but for the team that got ambushed that;s going to be seen as too little, too late.

Football terrorism cartoon thumbnail
National tension and Football terrorism – Wonkie CartOOn!