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Congo Team Protests Against Armed Violence at AFCON Semis

Congo players during their national anthem

Before the kick-off of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) semifinal match between Congo and Côte d’Ivoire on Wednesday, February 7, Congo’s football team and their coach, Sébastien Desabre, made a significant protest about the armed violence happening in eastern Congo.

While their national anthem was being played, the players and their coach covered their mouths with their right hands and pointed two fingers at their heads. They also wore black bands on their arms during the game.

Coach Desabre, after their 1-0 defeat to Côte d’Ivoire, said the protest was to “show support to the victims” and to inform the world that “there are indeed things happening in the east and that it is necessary to shed light on it.”

The French coach added that as a national team, they felt it was their duty to share what is happening behind the scenes of the country.

The team’s captain, Chancel Mbemba, and winger Cédric Bakambu had already been talking about the violence on social media since Monday. They also mentioned the issue in a press conference before the game.

For decades now, there has been series of armed conflicts in eastern Congo, where over 120 groups are fighting for power, land, and control over the region and its mineral resources. On the other hand, some groups are just trying to protect their communities.

This long-standing violence got worse at the end of 2021 when a rebel group called M23 reemerged and started attacking to take over Eastern Congo.

The United Nations and other human rights organisations have accused Rwanda of supporting M23, an allegation Rwanda strongly denies.

Read More: M23: Four things you should know about the rebel group’s campaign in Rwanda-DRC conflict

Read More: Tournament Of Surprises: Are we witnessing the best AFCON ever?

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