Sunday, 21 February 2010

Africa Cup of Nations vs Vancouver Winter Olympics

Prior to their formal openings, the recently concluded Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Angola and the current Winter Olympics in Canada were both struck by tragedy. In Angola, three members of the Togolese football team were murdered in a motorway ambush by insurgents in the country’s troubled region of Cabinda. In Canada, a Georgian luge competitor was killed during rehearsals when he crashed unto a pole in the sledding track.

But it was the nature of the response to these tragedies by the events organisers that could not have been more contrasting. The Vancouver Olympic officials initiated a moving flurry of activities expressing sympathy for the Georgian athlete. They telephoned the athlete’s family in Georgia to express their condolences. In a specially convened news conference at the games, a visibly shaken and distraught Jacques Rogge (president of the International Olympics Committee) also personally conveyed his organisation’s sympathies to the athlete’s family as well as to the Georgian people and state. Shortly after, the committee embarked on some restructuring work on the Whistler crash track site to minimise the risks for future contestants.

In Angola, sympathy was in short supply for the Togolese from the Confederation of African Football management. The confederation’s insistence that the Togolese may have avoided their fate if they had travelled to the tournament by air rather than by road overshadowed its already patchy display of commiseration at the time. The Angolan hosts were hardly more reassuring with Prime Minister Paulo Kassoma dismissing the tragedy as an “isolated act” even though some security concerns were raised earlier on the prudence of staging some of the competition’s fixtures in Cabinda. The very traumatised Togolese team of course withdrew from the competitions and returned home. Astonishingly, the callous confederation reacted to the team’s departure by banning Togo from participating in two future Africa Cup ties.

What was demonstrated so vividly in the Angola episode is the agelong diminution of African life by the contemporary Africa state and its varying institutions. Arabs and later Europeans had hewn the template of this degradation during centuries of their enslavement and exportation of African peoples to the Arab World and southern Europe and to the Americas and Europe respectively, and their conquest and occupation of Africa. Instead of smashing this template in the era of the so-called restoration of independence, African regimes have, since January 1956, used it as both launch pad and framework to wreak havoc across Africa. In 1966-1970, the Nigeria state, and its key institutions, organised the worst genocide in Africa since the 19th century when it murdered 3.1 million Igbo people. Since then, 12 million additional Africans have been murdered by African regimes in two other genocidal terrors in Rwanda and Darfur (northwest Sudan) as well as in other sites of the continent’s killing fields of the epoch: south Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Zaïre/Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya.

It is inconceivable that the overarching trajectory of the African renaissance would be anything else but the celebration of the humanity of the African child, woman and man. It is in this context that the Togolese football team and the Togolese peoples require our unqualified sympathies for their loss in Angola. The Confederation of African Football must convey these sympathies, apologise for their earlier complete lack of compassion for the tragedy, and rescind their so-called ban on the Togolese team. The Angolan government desperately needs to honour its responsibilities to protect the visiting Togolese team. It failed disastrously to do so. It should forthwith apologise publicly to Togo and pay reparations to the families of the Togolese who lost their lives and to those players and officials who survived the Cabinda ambush. African life must be treasured.


  1. Once again you are in the money with this well articulated write-up on two tragedies with two different reactions. African lives means nothing to Africans and most times we think that it is the outsiders that will help us fix it while we do nothing. To this day, I am yet to hear of a tangible reaction from the Togolese government regarding the foolish decision of CAF to suspend the country for two African cup of nations tournament.

    Togolese players and officials died and Togo got sympathy by way of a suspension. This is the unfortunate fate of Africa and there is something else that mirrows this like former governor of Abia State Orji Uzor Kalu few years ago suggesting that Igbo people should apologize to Nigeria for killing 3.1 million of our people. It is simply absurd and a manifestation of stupidity to the highest levels.

    We must rise up and demand justice and respect will follow once we set out with the right step.

  2. It has bothered me for so long and I have continued to wonder when the indigenous heads in the Sub-Saharan Africa will wake up to redeem themselves. For how long will it take them to realise that they have now become masters of their own destiny? And what that means is that they have to redefine themselves to the rest of the world. They have to show that they can think for themselves instead of continuing to look at the Caucasian's face to see what he feels about every situation and only act as it will please him (the Caucasian). Or how else can you look at it when it is France that offered to pay for the Togolese football contingent fare expenses. This unfortunate situation permeates into all aspects of the African existence. In sports, politics, states building, commerce, etc it has remained the same, the Africans will not think for themselves. Outsiders came here to the Sub-Saharan Africa, drew up the most unrealistic maps of statehoods and left and for nearly a century after the black race has continued to regard this absurdity as sacrosanct that they have not attained enough sainthood or authority to desecrate and redo the map. And no doubt all the distortions we have today in the Sub-Saharan Africa have their root from there, the dishonest and unrealistic mish-mash called nation states. Once that issue is cleared then the black race can have a clear mind to begin to think right for itself. Only then will the black race begin to place the right value on its lives.

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