The tragic attack on the Togolese football team bus (three people were killed and one player seriously injured) on the eve of the African Nations Cup in the disputed Angolan province of Cabinda, is just that: tragic.

What’s even more tragic is that it took a random attack on a football team to get the media to give attention to the conflict in Cabinda.   Then there’s European observers who can’t help themselves in exploiting the tragedy, making connections to South Africa’s ability to host the World Cup next year. In the process they let their racism get the better of their knowledge of geography.

On the first count, Lara Pawson, who served as BBC correspondent in Angola a while back, writes:

I was dumbfounded when I heard the news that the footballers travelled from Pointe-Noire [in the Republic of Congo] to Cabinda by road. If you want to hook up with FLEC [that’s the Cabindan rebels] the best way to do it is to go to Pointe-Noire. The place is riddled with FLEC. The rebels must have been beside themselves with joy when they heard of the Togolese team plans. At last, after years of being ignored, the ultimate media opportunity drops into FLEC’s lap. All they needed was a few well-armed men to cause even The Sun to (attempt to) cover the story.

It was always clear that the 2006 sham deal would severely lack the support of the Cabindan population, who are fed up with living in poverty in the richest province of the country. Many said that onshore oil exploration in Cabinda would make the contrast in wealth more visible than ever and Tiago’s campaign less so – but this little coup before CAN has, only briefly I’m sure, put FLEC’s campaign on to breakfast tables across the world in a way that even the old leader might never have dared hope for.

On the second issue, the South African organizers, to their credit, have been quick to correct the faulty geography. This was the response of Danny Jordaan, the chief World Cup organiser in South Africa, to reporters:

If there is a war in Kosovo and a World Cup in Germany, no one asks if the World Cup can go on in Germany, everyone understands the war in Kosovo is a war in Kosovo.

Enough said.

Further Reading

No more caricatures

Engaging seriously with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s life could help us understand how South Africa got where it is and where it’s going.