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"Congo Players Protest Against Armed Violence in Their Country Before Africa Cup Game"
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Congo’s players and coach Sébastien Desabre protested before their team’s Africa Cup of Nations semifinal on Wednesday to draw attention to the armed violence in the east of their country.

During a portion of Congo’s national anthem, the players and French coach Desabre all held their right hands in front of their mouths and two fingers to their temples. Additionally, the players wore black armbands for the semifinal against host nation Ivory Coast.

Desabre commented after his team’s 1-0 loss, saying, “It was a message to show support to the victims, to notify (people) that there are indeed things happening in the east and that it is necessary to shed light on it. People are disappointed about that, too.”

He added, “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.”

Captain Chancel Mbemba and forward Cédric Bakambu had already attempted to bring more attention to the issue on social media on Monday, while it was also briefly mentioned at the pre-game press conference on Tuesday.

Eastern Congo has faced armed violence for decades, with over 120 groups vying for power, land, and valuable mineral resources, while others seek to defend their communities. The armed groups have long engaged in violent campaigns in the mineral-rich region and have been accused of mass killings.

The conflict escalated in late 2021 when a rebel group called M23 reemerged and launched attacks to seize territory. The United Nations and human rights groups say the resurgent group has support from neighboring Rwanda, though Rwanda denies it.

Piers Potter

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