Attacks increasing against Angolan soldiers in Cabinda

The enclave of Cabinda is the northernmost province of Angola, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and covers 7,300 square kilometres located between Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. The former Portuguese possession is inhabited by almost 700 thousand people, providing 60% of Angolan oil, but doting socio-economic oblivion.

Separatist rebels of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) Photo from website africa.tvcnews.tv
Separatist rebels of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) Photo from website africa.tvcnews.tv

The territory acquired a legal status in its own right than the colony of Angola under the 1885 Treaty of Simulambuco. Then later, Portugal proclaimed on several occasions the political division between Luanda and Cabinda, also supported by sixty kilometres of Congolese territory separating from Angola rebel province. Until you get to 1956, when the mother country joined the administrative control of two overseas domains.

Since 1963, the Angolan enclave is perpetually at war to reclaim its independence, first against Portuguese colonial rule and then, from 1975, against Angola.

A low-intensity conflict, virtually ignored by the Western media, which facing the rebel Front Liberation Enclave of Cabinda – Armed Forces of Cabinda (FLEC-FAC) and troops of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA – a Portuguese acronym). The separatists carry out their guerrilla attacks on military barracks and police stations, to oil installations and employees of foreign companies.

Bloody clashes there were between 3 and 10 February in the Necuto, with a budget of 18 soldiers of the FAA killed and ten wounded in the fighting with separatist rebels. In the past ten days, the guerrilla movement has issued some press to invite the local population to boycott the national polls scheduled for next August, and claim deadly attacks in recent days against the Angolan military.

In the last Wednesday statement, signed by the commander of the Brigade South Mayombe, Lieutenant General Alfonso Nzau, the FLEC-FAC reiterated that "does not accept the permanence of a foreign power on its territory and warns all Angolan political parties without exception, not campaigning in Cabinda, because the province does not belong in Luanda."

In the same document the autonomist movement "intimate to oil companies operating in the region of Gold Buco-Zau, in Mongo Mbucuco area, to immediately stop their illegal activities, since their presence in the territory is contrary to the prohibition of all exploration in the Mayombe forest."

The conflict had subsided in 2006, with the signing of a peace agreement, but the deal had not been recognised by Cabinda Forum for Dialogue, which brings together the churches and civil society. The violence, though with reduced intensity, continued and has continued repression by the Angolan military, with the complicity of foreign oil companies taking place in the small province.

The enclave access is controlled militarily and it is difficult to have precise information on the humanitarian situation. Although a recent joint report from the Association Justice, Peace and Democracy (AJPD), Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OPHDRs), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), claims that in the Angolan province human rights are subject of systematic violations.

The report shows that in Cabinda continue to be reported cases of arbitrary arrest and detention, restrictions on freedom of expression, religion, association and assembly. Luanda justify repressive measures with the protection of national security, accusing the separatists of undermining the territorial integrity of the State.

The question of independence of Cabinda tragically gained prominence in the news in January 2010, when some members of the FLEC-FAC strafed the bus carrying the Togolese national football team, committed to the African Nations Cup which was played in Angola. The rebels killed the driver, the assistant coach and the press officer of the team.

FLEC-FAC has intensified its attacks against Angolan troops, after the death of its historic and charismatic leader Nzita Henriques Tiago, who died last June 3 in Paris.

Over the decades Tiago appealed several times to the African Union, France and Portugal because it would support the self-determination of Cabinda. The international community, however, not taken into account his invitations and continued to support Luanda.

Since last July, the group was responsible for more than one hundred dead and has repeatedly warned the Beijing government on the repatriation of all Chinese employees in oil production, whose presence in the area constitutes a blatant provocation.

@afrofocus

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