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Togo’s Pain and Nobody Gains

March 1, 2010

As a New Yorker living in a post-September 11th era, I’ve personally become accustomed to the great lengths the government goes to secure New York from any potential attack whether it be international terrorists or domestic lunatics. The city simply does not play games when it comes to security.

This aura of safety that New Yorkers are accustomed to is certainly not ubiquitous throughout the World, and a tragic incident in the Cabinda region of Angola reminded sports fans everywhere that the World can be a very violent place. As was well publicized after it happened, the Togolese national team was en route from West Africa to the African Cup of Nations in Angola when Flec rebels ambushed the Togo team bus, spraying it with machine gun fire before fleeing the scene.
Togo team member Emmanuel Adebayor
The Front for the liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda is a freedom fighting political movement in the Cabinda region that has rebelled against the Angolan government in an attempt to gain separate sovereign control of the Cabinda region from the rest of Angola. The region has been disputed between many groups and is highly valuable because of the rich oil reserves in the region.

The attack on the Togo bus left two team staff dead and one player wounded, and ultimately forced the Togolese team to withdraw from the African tournament.

The shooting shook the sporting world especially in soccer circles because of the unprovoked nature of the attack. Naturally, many journalists and writers began speculating whether similar incidents could happen to the World’s best teams in South Africa in the summer time. The relation between the Angola attack and security in South Africa is being questioned, which has been a complaint of FIFA World Cup organizers who feel unjustly painted with the same brush as another African nation. Organizing Chief Executive Danny Jordaan said, “The event of Angola has absolutely nothing to do with South Africa and absolutely nothing to do with the World Cup in South Africa.”

Anthony Herrera , a student at Brooklyn College from New York City gave his insight into the comparison between Angola and South Africa.

“Comparing the security situation in Cabinda and South Africa is tantamount to comparing the security situation in Argentina with that in rural Colombia. The only reason that they are being mentioned in the same sentence is because they both happen to be in Africa. Despite the fact that crime rates are ridiculously high in South Africa, it is a country at peace, which will most certainly have a serious police/military presence in any dangerous areas (Johannesburg, Durban, etc.). The situation in Cabinda is one of an armed secessionist movement trying to violently detach itself from Angola where there really should have been no games being held during the ANC. Once again, this is a reflection of condescending attitudes emanating towards South Africa regarding their ability to meet often ridiculous standards.”

It is clear that the South African officials are insulted with one African incident being used to question their own country’s level of security, which is clearly understandable especially with the unfair negative stereotypes that many people hold towards Africa. As Anthony pointed out, the social and political climate in Angola is unique to that country and should not be used to judge a completely different nation.

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