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DR Congo Football Squad Advocates for Peace Amid AFCON 2023 Spotlight

DR Congo Football Squad Advocates for Peace Amid AFCON 2023 Spotlight

Members of the DR Congo’s Africa Cup of Nations squad have seized the international spotlight to advocate for peace in the troubled eastern region of their country. The eastern part of DR Congo has long been afflicted by numerous armed groups, including the notorious M23 rebels, vying for control over its mineral-rich territories.

Conflict among these groups, including pro-government militias, escalated after a fragile six-month truce collapsed in October, resulting in the reported deaths of at least 60 civilians during attacks in North Kivu that month alone.

Presently, the conflict rages on within 25 kilometres (15 miles) of the province’s main city, Goma, a region where the government in Kinshasa has struggled to establish security over the past three decades.

According to the United Nations, the intensified conflict has displaced 6.9 million people, contributing to one of the largest humanitarian crises globally in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

DR Congo striker Cedric Bakambu utilised social media to highlight the ongoing atrocities in eastern Congo, urging for global attention and action amidst the fervour surrounding the Nations Cup.

As the team prepares to face AFCON hosts Ivory Coast in Abidjan on Wednesday (20:00 GMT), the president of the country’s football association disclosed that the squad plans to wear black armbands as a symbol of mourning and solidarity for those affected by the conflict.

Despite the nation’s divisions, prominent members of the DR Congo team have united to advocate for peace in the eastern region.

Over half of the squad, including captain Chancel Mbemba, expressed solidarity with the victims and their families in a video shared by a state-backed initiative aimed at providing financial assistance to victims of conflict-related sexual violence and crimes against peace and humanity in DR Congo.

These heartfelt messages, posted by various team members, including Mbemba, resonate with a broader online campaign driven by Fonarev, a state fund dedicated to aiding victims of sexual violence resulting from conflicts and insecurity in the country.

Gedeon Kalulu, a key defender alongside Mbemba, reiterated the players’ call for peace, emphasising the need for tranquilly in Goma and across Congo.

Meanwhile, concerns persist over the exploitation of mineral resources in North Kivu, particularly cobalt, vital for lithium-ion batteries used in various electronic devices.

As the footballers utilise their platform to advocate for peace, ongoing conflicts and human rights abuses continue to mar the region’s stability, prompting campaigns urging young people to abstain from using products that may perpetuate these abuses.

Despite the challenges faced by DR Congo, particularly its political instability and economic hardships, the national team’s remarkable performance at AFCON 2023 serves as a source of pride and hope for the nation.

Following their victory against Egypt in the last 16, Brentford forward Yoane Wissa expressed his dedication to representing his country and bringing joy to its people amidst adversity.

As DR Congo advances in the tournament, the team’s resilience on the pitch echoes the resilience of a nation striving for peace and prosperity amidst turmoil.

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