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Why did the DR Congo players protest at AFCON '24?

During the opening segment of the semi-final game between Ivory Coast and DR Congo, the players from DR Congo staged a silent protest while the national anthem played.

The players were seen covering their mouths with their hands, while using the other hand to hold gun fingers to their heads. The notion behind this gesture is to alert the world about the silent genocide that's been taking place in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo for almost a century.

Many Congolese people feel that the conflict in the east of the country is not getting enough media attention from outlets across the world. Not only this but the violence, sexual abuse and torture that Congolese people have been subject to, has not been actively called out by any other governments or leading parties globally.

Last week, reports from Kivu, a province in eastern Congo broke. Civilians had been murdered brutally by beheading, and several cases of rape were reported. These attacks were carried out by a rebel group called 'M23'. This group of rebels has been ravaging the east of Congo for over a decade, and on the 25th January 2024, they killed 19 civilians whilst engaging in combat with the Congolese army. M23, one of around 120 groups active in eastern Congo, has been fighting for over a decade and claims to defend Tutsi interests against ethnic Hutu militias. This conflict goes back to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, where over 8000 Hutu's from Rwanda, escaped into the east of Congo DRC to flee the conflict.

Many have claimed that the M23 rebel group's activities in Congo DR have been backed by Rwandan president, Paul Kagame. Kagame himself would have various incentives for destabilising Congo's eastern region. Firstly, DR Congo is the richest country on the planet in natural resources, whereas neighbouring Rwanda's mineral reserve barely scratches the surface of that of DRC. Kagame being a dictatorial tyrant, would seek to enrich his country and those that share his interests, by looting from DRC's mines.

Kagame has funded this rebel group, with support of Western powers, with weaponry and machinery that has equipped them the power to go against the entire Congolese army. Being in cahoots with the West; it's the belief of many Congolese people that Kagame has promised to share the pathway into accessing Congo's extensive mineral wealth, once M23 has successfully destabilised the eastern part of the country and made it inhabitable.

Now, on Wednesday 7th February, a rocket landed close to a university in Goma. Once it was confirmed that this was an M23 attack, thousands of people from Goma began to uproot and flee their hometowns. The people fear their lives, they fear that the day the M23 will reach their village to rape and murder, it will be their turn. These Congolese people are constantly fleeing, sleeping under tents or in shelters until it's safe to keep moving again. The M23 are moving further into the country, and heading for Goma - they will not cease until they fully occupy the territory under their control.

The situation in Congo has stirred up several questions around political morality (or if it even exists). However a recent uproar took off when people began to notice that during the DRC v CIV #AFCON semi-final game, the Congolese fans were not showed on camera. It was as if they were not even present in the stadium. People quickly realised that the Congolese crowd were committed to raising awareness about the recent and historical violence in the country, with many holding signs which read 'FREE CONGO' and 'STOP THE GENOCIDE IN CONGO'.

If you read this, please take time to share this with your circles and continue to amplify #FreeCongo #CongoIsBleeding

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