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Official seal of Cabinda
Cabinda (light green) within Angola
Cabinda (light green) within Angola
Alvor AgreementJanuary 15, 1975
 • Total7,823 km2 (3,020 sq mi)
 • Total357,576

Cabinda (also spelled Kabinda) is an exclave and province of Angola, a status that has been disputed by many political organizations in the territory. The capital city is also called Cabinda. The province is divided into four municipalities - Belize, Buco Zau, Cabinda and Cacongo.

Modern Cabinda is the result of a fusion of three kingdoms: N'Goyo, Loango and Kakongo. It has an area of 7,823 km2 (3,020 sq mi) and a population of 357,576 (estimated in 2006). According to 1988 United States government statistics[citation needed], the total population of the province was 147,200, with a near even split between total rural and urban populations. An estimated one third of Cabindans are refugees living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa)[citation needed].

Cabinda is separated from the rest of Angola by a narrow strip of territory belonging to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which bounds the province on the south and the east. Cabinda is bounded on the north by the Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. Adjacent to the coast are some of the largest offshore oil fields in the world.[1] Petroleum exploration began in 1954 by the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company, when the territory was under Portuguese rule.[2] Cabinda also produces hardwoods, coffee, cacao, rubber, and palm oil products, however, petroleum production accounts for most of Cabinda's domestic product. Cabinda produces 700,000 barrels (110,000 m3) of crude oil per day. Cabinda Oil is associated with Sonangol, Agip Angola Lda (41%), Chevron (39.2%), Total (10%) and Eni (9.8%).

In 1885, the Treaty of Simulambuco established in Cabinda a Protectorate of Portugal and a number of Cabindan independence movements consider the occupation of the territory by Angola illegal. While the Angolan Civil War largely ended in 2002, an armed struggle persists in the exclave of Cabinda, where some of the factions have proclaimed an independent Republic of Cabinda, with offices in Paris.


Portuguese rule

Portuguese explorers, missionaries and traders arrived at the mouth of the Congo River in the mid-15th century, making contact with the Manikongo, the powerful King of the Congo. The Manikongo controlled much of the region through affiliation with smaller kingdoms, such as the Kingdoms of Ngoyo, Loango and Kakongo in present-day Cabinda.

Over the years, the Portuguese, Dutch, and English established trading posts, logging camps and small palm oil processing factories in Cabinda. Trade continued and the European presence grew, resulting in conflicts between the rival colonial powers.

1913 map of Bas-Congo and Cabinda

Portugal first claimed sovereignty over Cabinda in the February 1885 Treaty of Simulanbuco, which gave Cabinda the status of a protectorate of the Portuguese Crown under the request of “the princes and governors of Cabinda”. This is often the basis upon which the legal and historical arguments in defence of self-determination of modern-day Cabinda are constructed. Article 1, for example, states, “the princes and chiefs and their successors declare, voluntarily, their recognition of Portuguese sovereignty, placing under the protectorate of this nation all the territories by them governed” [sic]. Article 2, which is often used in separatist arguments, goes even further: “Portugal is obliged to maintain the integrity of the territories placed under its protection.” FLEC-R’s case, for instance, rests on the fact that the above-mentioned treaty was signed between the emissaries of the Portuguese Crown and the princes and notables of Cabinda, giving rise to not one, but three protectorates: Cacongo, Loango and Ngoio.

Through the Treaty of Simulambuco in 1885 between the kings of Portugal and Cabinda's princes, a Portuguese protectorate was decreed, reserving rights to the local princes and independent of Angola. Cabinda once had the Congo River as the only natural boundary with Angola, but in 1885, the Conference of Berlin extended the Congo Free State's territory along the Congo River to the river's mouth at the sea.

Under Portuguese rule, the territory of Cabinda, then called Portuguese Congo, developed as an important agricultural and forestry centre, and in 1967 it discovered huge offshore oil fields. Oil, timber and cocoa were its main exports by then. The town of Cabinda, the capital of the territory was a Portuguese administrative and services centre with a port and airfield. The beaches of Cabinda were popular among the Portuguese Angolans.[3]

1977 map of Cabinda

After independence of Angola from Portugal

A 1974 leftist military coup in Lisbon changed the Portuguese regime and led to the independence of all Portuguese Overseas Provinces in Africa; many Portuguese settlers in Cabinda left. In 1975, the Treaty of Alvor integrated Cabinda into Angola, but the treaty was rejected by all Cabindan political organizations. These groups argue that as they had no say in the agreement, it is illegal.[citation needed]


Consisting largely of tropical forest, Cabinda produces hardwoods, coffee, cocoa, crude rubber and palm oil. The product for which it is best known, however, is its oil. Conservative estimates are that Cabinda accounts for close to 60% of Angola’s oil production, estimated at approximately 900,000 barrels per day (140,000 m3/d), and it is estimated that oil exports from the province are worth the equivalent of US$100,000 per annum for every Cabindan. Yet, it remains one of the poorest provinces in Angola. An agreement in 1996 between the national and provincial governments stipulated that 10% of Cabinda’s taxes on oil revenues should be given back to the province, but Cabindans often feel that these revenues are not benefiting the population as a whole, largely because of corruption. The private sector, particularly the oil industry, has both affected and been affected by the secessionist conflict. During the early days of Cabinda's struggle, the oil companies were perceived to be sympathetic to, if not supportive of, Cabinda’s self-determination cause. The strategy used by the separatists to gain international attention, was most evident in 1999 and 2000. During 1999, FLEC-R kidnapped four foreign workers (two Portuguese and two French citizens), but released them after several months, having failed to attract the attention of the international community. FLEC-FAC also increased its activities during 2000 with the more widely publicized kidnapping of three Portuguese workers employed by a construction company, while FLEC-R kidnapped another five Portuguese civilians. These hostages were not freed until June 2001, following the diplomatic intervention of the governments of Gabon and Congo Brazzaville.


Ethnic grounds for self-determination

The arguments for self-determination are based on Cabindans' cultural and ethnic background. Prior to the Treaty of Simulambuco, three kingdoms existed in what is now referred to as Cabinda: Cacongo, Ngoyo and Loango. The Cabindans belong to the Bakongo ethnic group and the Kikongo ethno-linguistic group. The Bakongo also comprise the majority of the population in Uige and Zaire Provinces of Angola. However, despite this shared ancestry, the Cabindans developed a very different culture and a distinct variant of the Kikongo language. As a result, Cabindans, in their vast majority, consider themselves different and separate from the Angolans[citation needed].

Ethno-cultural uniqueness as a basis for self-determination has been vehemently opposed in Angola, by both the government and by prominent intellectuals and civil society personalities. The MPLA’s Secretary-General, for example, has characterized the argument as "not enough to grant it independence, because all the provinces in the country have specific cultures."

Secessionist history

In the early 1960s, several movements advocating a separate status for Cabinda came into being. The MLEC (Movement for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda) was formed in 1960 under the leadership of Luis Ranque Franque. Resulting from the merger of various émigré associations in Brazzaville, the MLEC rapidly became the most prominent of the separatist movements. A further group was the Alliama (Alliance of the Mayombe), representing the Mayombe, a small minority of the population. In an important development, these movements united in August 1963 to form a common, united front. They called themselves the FLEC (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda), and the leadership role was taken by the MLEC’s Ranque Franque.

In marked contrast with the FNLA, the FLEC’s efforts to mobilize international support for its government in exile met with little success. In fact, the majority of Organization of African Unity (OAU) members, concerned that this could encourage separatism elsewhere on the continent and duly committed to the sanctity of African state borders, firmly rejected recognition of the FLEC’s government in exile.

Later, in the course of Angola's turbulent decolonisation process, Ranque Franque proclaimed the independence of the "Republic of Cabinda" in Kampala on 1 August 1975 at an OAU summit which was discussing Angola at that precise moment. Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko called for a referendum on the future of the Cabinda. Lopes is reported to have said at the time that "Cabinda exists as a reality and is historically and geographically different from Angola."

FLEC formed a provisional government led by Henriques Tiago. The independence of Cabinda from Portugal was proclaimed on 1 August 1975. Luiz Branque Franque was elected president. After the declaration of Angolan independence in November 1975, Cabinda was invaded by forces of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) with support of troops from Cuba. The MPLA overthrew the provisional FLEC government and incorporated Cabinda into Angola.

Thus when, in January 1975, Angola’s three liberation movements (MPLA, FNLA and UNITA) met with the colonial power in Alvor, Portugal, to establish the modalities of the transition to independence, FLEC was not invited. Subsequently, and for much of the 1970s and 1980s, FLEC operated a low intensity, guerrilla war, attacking Angolan government troops and economic targets or creating havoc by kidnapping foreign employees working in the province’s oil and construction businesses.

In April 1997, Cabinda joined the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, a democratic and international organization whose members are indigenous peoples, occupied nations, minorities and independent states or territories.

Recent history

An ad-hoc United Nations commission for human rights in Cabinda reported in 2003 that many atrocities had been perpetrated by the MPLA. In 2004, according to Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Human Rights Watch mission for Africa, the Angolan army continued to commit crimes against civilians in Cabinda.

Although the Angolan government says FLEC is no longer operative, this is disputed by the Republic of Cabinda and its President, Antonio Luis Lopes. Recent hikes in oil prices have made Cabinda's untapped onshore oil reserves a valuable commodity.

Peace deal

In July 2006 after ceasefire negotiations in Congo-Brazzaville, António Bento Bembe - as a president of Cabindan Forum for Dialogue and Peace, vice-president and executive secretary of FLEC - announced that the Cabindan separatist forces were ready to declare a ceasefire. Bembe is the leader of the "Cabindan Forum for Dialogue", an organization which represents most Cabindan groups. The peace was recognized by the United States, France, Portugal, Russia, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Japan, South Korea, the European Union and the African Union.

"We're going to sign a cease-fire with the Angolans who in return have accepted the principle of granting special status to Cabinda," he announced, implying that while his group is resigned to be a part of Angola, they have gotten a promise of some form of autonomy.[4]

FLEC-FAC from Paris contends Bembe has no authority or mandate to negotiate with the Angolans and that the only acceptable solution is total independence.[5]

Togo football team bus attack

On 8 January 2010, while being escorted by Angolan forces through the disputed territory of Cabinda, the team bus of the Togo national football team was attacked by gunmen as it travelled to 2010 Africa Cup of Nations tournament. The ensuing gunfight resulted in the deaths of the assistant coach, team spokesman and bus driver, as well as injuring several others.

An offshoot of the FLEC claimed responsibility. Rodrigues Mingas, secretary general of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda-Military Position (Flec-PM), said his fighters had meant to attack security guards as the convoy passed through Cabinda. "This attack was not aimed at the Togolese players but at the Angolan forces at the head of the convoy," Mingas told France 24 television. "So it was pure chance that the gunfire hit the players. We don't have anything to do with the Togolese and we present our condolences to the African families and the Togo government. We are fighting for the total liberation of Cabinda." [6]

See also


  1. "Sport and terrorism: A deadly game". January 11, 2010. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
  2. Cabinda, Angola, ICE Case Studies Number 129, 2004 by Alan Neff
  3. CabindaAnosOuro.wmv, a film of Cabinda, Portuguese Angola (before 1975).
  4. (Reuters): Cabinda separatists say ready to sign ceasefire Retrieved 2 November 2007.
  5. - Subscription required Retrieved 4 November 2006.
  6. Sturcke, James (11 January 2010). "Togo footballers were attacked by mistake, Angolan rebels say". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 April 2010.

External links

Coordinates: 5°03′S 12°18′E / 5.050°S 12.300°E / -5.050; 12.300

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