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Angola’s Cabinda Province Poor Choice for Football Tournament, says Analyst

An analyst calls the decision by the Angolan government to hold Cup of Nations football matches in Cabinda Province stupid and tragic.

Several members of the Togolese football team and an Angolan bus driver were killed Friday when a separatist group attacked their bus.

Mohamed El-Khawas, professor of history and political science at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) in Washington, DC, says, “Unfortunately, the situation there is not stable because there is a separatist movement. They are trying to gain independence and they have been carrying out the struggle for several decades.”

Mineral rich

The small province, which is separated from the main part of Angola by a narrow strip of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is rich in oil and minerals.

“This is a major source of hard currency and huge revenue for the government,” he says.

Cabinda has not received much media attention of late, despite the ongoing separatist movement. El-Khawas says that’s due to government control of the media and attempts to “divide and conquer.”

“They have managed to pacify some of the former rebel leaders and unfortunately,” he says, “that was not very successful in convincing all factions to follow the lead and try to live in peaceful coexistence under the current arrangement.”

El-Khawas says separatists want a share in the country’s oil wealth. Angola is now Africa’s biggest oil producer, surpassing Nigeria.

“They feel that one way of ensuring that they can get a shared deal is to pressure the government by conducting their liberation struggle,” he says.

The UDC professor says giving autonomy to the region and sharing in the oil and mineral wealth “might convince some of these leaders to sit around the table and reach some kind of compromise.”

Cup of Nations

As for holding football matches in Cabinda, he says, “It was really a stupid decision. It is unfortunate. It was tragic. And I really don’t understand the logic behind having it there, knowing that the political situation there is not stable, that the separatists will take advantage of having these foreign teams coming into Cabinda and try to make a statement.”

The Luanda government believed it had “things in hand in Cabinda.” However, he says, “It backfired and I really believe the government made a terrible mistake.”

He also questions whether other teams should hold matches in the province.

The attack, he says, has done a lot to damage Angola’s international image.

El- Khawas says the Luanda government should “ensure” that the families of those killed and injured are “adequately compensated in order to get it out of the media attention.”