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The DR Congo Football Team Protested The Silence Over The Massacre In Their Country Before Their Africa Cup Match

“A national football team is a driving force for a nation. And this evening, it was also our duty to be able to inform what is happening behind the scenes."

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s national football team protested the armed violence and massacre happening in the country before their semifinal match at the Africa Cup.

DRC players covered their mouth and put two fingers to their temple while singing the national anthem before the match against Ivory Coast on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

dr congo football soccer protest massacre africa cup

The team, nicknamed the Leopards, also wore black armbands to the match.

For decades, more than 100 military groups have been fighting for territory and natural resources in eastern DRC, which has forced more than 6.5 million people from their homes and killed another six million.

The resurgence of a military group, M23, in late 2021 has led to a spike in violence that has displaced millions more and worsened the humanitarian crisis in the area.

The DRC team’s French coach, Sébastien Desabre, said in a press conference following the match that the players wanted to bring attention to the crisis happening in their country.

DR Congo French head coach Sebastien Desabre
DR Congo’s French head coach Sebastien Desabre gestures ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 semi-final football match. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

“A national football team is a driving force for a nation. And this evening, it was also our duty to be able to inform what is happening behind the scenes,” Desabre said, according to the Washington Post.

“Everyone sees the massacres in Eastern Congo. But everyone is silent,” player Cédric Bakambu wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday prior to the match. “Put the same energy that you use talking about the Africa Cup to highlight what is happening with us. There are no small gestures.”

The team’s captain, Chancel Mbemba, also took to X on Monday, writing “Thinking of all the all the victims of the atrocities in Goma and their families. I pray with all my heart that my country regains its peace.”

DRC lost 1-0 to Ivory Coast.

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the country’s government spokesperson congratulated the players for the gesture but accused the Confederation of African Football (CAF) of censoring the moment on television.

“@CAF_Online and its services censored our public even though they were present at the stadium, it was impossible to censor this memorable gesture made by our heroes to the sound of our national anthem, Debout Congolais,” he wrote on X.

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