AFCON 2023: Why DR Congo players covered mouths with hands during national anthem at AFCON semi-final


AFCON 2023: Why DR Congo players covered mouths with hands during national anthem at AFCON semi-final

Festus Chuma 19:00 - 08.02.2024

Democratic Republic of Congo players silently protested before their AFCON semi-final match against Ivory Coast.

Democratic Republic of Congo players stood in a unique form of protest before their Africa Cup of Nations semi-final match against Ivory Coast in Abidjan. 

In a display of unity and solidarity, they chose not to sing their national anthem, opting instead to cover their mouths with their hands and place two fingers from their left hands to their temples. 

DR Congo has been grappling with domestic instability and political strife, particularly after contested elections at the end of 2023.

This unrest has been further compounded by an armed insurgency in the east of the country, led by the rebel group M23.

In a time when their country grapples with violence and chaos, the Leopards sought to shine a spotlight on the plight of their compatriots.

Opting for a silent protest, players covered their mouths with their right hands while signaling with two fingers of their left hands to their temples during the anthem. 

Sébastien Desabre, the French coach of Congo DR, articulated the sentiment behind the action.

"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,'"he stated as per ESPN.

Despite a valiant effort, DR Congo's journey at the Cup of Nations concluded with a 1-0 defeat, but their message resonated far beyond the pitch.

Desabre further elaborated on the team's intent, emphasizing the role of a national football team as a beacon of hope and unity for a nation.

 "A national football team is a driving force for a nation, and this evening, it was also our duty to share what's happening in the East," he added.

Over 120 armed groups are locked in a perpetual struggle over power, land, and the region's rich mineral resources, leading to widespread violence and suffering.

Midfielder Charles Pickel, reflecting on the conflict, shared, "Of course we're aware of what's happening, it's sad. It's very close to home, but we and journalists can help by speaking about what is happening."

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