In-depth: Cabinda

ANGOLA: The evolution of the conflict: 1885 - 2003

Photo: IRIN
Boundary map of Angola including Cabinda to the north
JOHANNESBURG, 12 January 2010 (IRIN) - The following chronology details the evolution of the Cabinda conflict.
1885 - Cabinda becomes a protectorate of Portugal under the Treaty of Simulanbuco
1954 - Oil explorations begin.
1956 - Portuguese government creates an administrative union between Cabinda and Angola.
1960 - Two groups, both seeking independence, are formed: the Movement for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (MLEC) under Luis Ranque Franque; and Alliance of Mayombe.
1963 - The separatist groups join forces to form the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), under the leadership of the MLEC's Franque. In the same year the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) ranks Cabinda as the 39th state still to be decolonised, with Angola as the 35th.
1967 - FLEC creates a government in exile, based in the border town of Tshela, Zaire (now DRC).
1975 - War of independence ends. Most Portuguese flee. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) declares all other political parties illegal.

January 1975 - The Alvor Agreement, in which Cabinda is declared "an integral and inalienable part of Angola", is signed by three Angolan liberation movements: the Front National pour la Libération de l’Angola (FNLA); the MPLA; and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).
February 1975 - The MPLA government declares it is ready to negotiate with the separatists in Cabinda. FLEC demands include the dissociation of Cabinda from Angola, the recognition of FLEC as the only Cabindan liberation movement, and formal recognition of the Cabindan people's right to self-determination. FLEC also protests to the UN over the alleged killing of over 100 students and villagers by MPLA and Portuguese troops.
July 1975 - Zairean president Mobutu Sese Seko calls for a referendum on the future of the Cabinda enclave. Gabon, Uganda and the Central African Republic openly support FLEC, but the majority of OAU members firmly oppose the Cabindan separatists and their demand for an independent state on the grounds that it would encourage separatism elsewhere. Referendum does not take place
1977 - FLEC splits. The CMLC (Military Command for the Liberation of Cabinda) claims the task of replacing FLEC and reorganising the movement on a new democratic foundation.
1979 - Jose Eduardo dos Santos becomes president of Angola.
1980-85 Further splits in FLEC with the formation of the Cabinda Enclave Liberation Front - Renewal (FLEC-Renovada), under the leadership of Antonio Bento-Bembe and FLEC-FAC (Armed Forces of Cabinda)
May 1981 - Six men are sentenced to death on charges of belonging to FLEC and carrying out bomb attacks against strategic economic targets, schools and hospitals in mainland Angola. Four more are sentenced to 24 years' imprisonment each.
1983 - Luanda agrees to an unofficial amnesty for FLEC guerrillas. More than 8,000 refugees return to Cabinda.
February 1985 - A cease-fire is agreed between the MPLA government and FLEC, but no formal resolution is reached. Zaire and Angola agree to prohibit the use of each other's territory as rebel bases.
September 29 and 30, 1992 - Between 7 percent and 12 percent of Cabindans vote in national elections, following a boycott call by FLEC.
January 1993 - Full-scale civil war resumes between the MPLA government and UNITA. Government deploys 15,000 troops in Cabinda. FLEC (now FLEC-FAC - Armed Forces of Cabinda) controls the rural interior and escalates its activities. Angolan government troops occupy Cabinda town.
March 1994 - Eduardo Dos Santos, the president of Angola, announces that talks with FLEC-FAC are about to begin, but the talks do not take place.
August 1994 - UNITA accuses the Luanda government of carrying out a "scorched earth" policy in Cabinda. UNITA reports that the government has killed about 700 villagers in Katabuanga, resulting in the flight of hundreds of other Cabindans to Congo and Zaire.
20 November 1994 - Lusaka peace accord signed between UNITA and government.
1996 - Cabindan independence fighters say they are holding three mine workers kidnapped in Cabinda. The government and the FLEC-FAC sign an agreement outlining a cease-fire. Namibia plays a facilitating role in the peace process. But the agreement fails as ongoing clashes between the Angolan Defence Force (FAA) and Cabindan separatists result in a toll of 29 deaths.
1997/98 - FAA operations increase in Cabinda, particularly in villages suspected of supporting separatists.
1998 - FLEC reports an attack by government troops, resulting in some 200 casualties on both sides.
1999 - FLEC-Renovada announces it is willing to negotiate the release of two Portuguese and French citizens kidnapped on 10 March in Cabinda, as long as the Catholic Bishop of Cabinda, Dom Paulino Madeca, acts as mediator.
2001 - Dos Santos once again suggests plans for negotiating a peaceful settlement between the Angolan government and the Cabindan separatists.
February 2001 - The government increases troops in the province as separatist activity increases.
August 2001 - The Angolan Minister of the Interior, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, appeals to FLEC separatists to end hostilities.
December 2001 - Exploratory contacts between the leaders of FLEC-FAC and the Angolan government. FLEC-Renovada sees any dialogue as premature.
October 2002 - Hope of peace talks is dashed as the FAA launches a major offensive. Dos Santos simultaneously announces that a peaceful solution to the conflict, through the granting of autonomy, is in sight. However, the government claims that because of FLEC's fragmentation, there is no "valid interlocutor" with which it can negotiate.
December 2002 - Human rights activists release details of widespread allegations of human rights abuses in the enclave. The report covers alleged abuses by both the Angolan security forces and FLEC, but the overwhelming number of accusations are made against government troops.
January 2003 - Exploratory talks between the government and FLEC-FAC are held in Paris, France. The separatist group dismisses government proposals.
read more See 2003 IRIN In-Depth on Cabinda
February 2003 - The Governor of Cabinda, Anibal Rocha, announces a draft political plan of action to be presented to Cabinda's liberation movements and civic groups. The plan fails to materialise.
July 2003 - FLEC-FAC says it is still active despite the recent defection of several key officials to the ruling party.
August 2003 - Luis Ranque Franque, original founder of FLEC participates in exploratory talks with authorities in Luanda.

November 2003 -

Military chiefs from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Congo-Brazzaville, the two countries bordering Cabinda, pledge to help the FAA bring an end to the conflict.

January 2004 -

Human rights groups again call on the international community to address allegations of abuse by government troops against civilians in the Enclave.

February 2004 - 

The Angolan government says it is seeking a mediator to resolve the separatist crisis in Cabinda.

September 2004 - 

FLEC and FLEC-FAC merge to become FLEC in a bid to engage the Angolan government in dialogue over the future status of the troubled Enclave. Leadership of the new organisation is to be drawn from both groups.

February 2005 -

Cabinda Province's main civil society organisation, Mpalapanda Civic Association (MCA), publishes a report detailing around 70 alleged violations by government troops, including murder, rape, intimidation, and illegal detentions committed against men, women and children, between September 2003 and December 2004.

March 2005 -

Refugee leaders who fled the Enclave for the DRC to escape the conflict return for a "go and see" visit, organized by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). After the trip the leaders say they would be reluctant to go home unless conditions improved.

July 2005 -

The FAA launches a major offensive against FLEC in the interior of Cabinda.

August 2005 -

For the first time in two years Cabindan refugees are repatriated from the DRC and Congo-Brazzaville.

March 2006 -

The Angolan government claims it has opened dialogue to bring peaceful resolution to the conflict, but their counterparts in the Enclave have yet to be invited to the table.

July 2006 -

Peace talks get underway in neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville but the Cabindan separatist movement splits again. The main members of the Cabinda Forum for Dialogue (CFD) denounce Antonio Bento Bembe, [a FLEC leader] as head of the forum and say they will not recognize the peace accord he is negotiating. Despite Angola's claims that an accord granting Cabinda "special administrative status" has been reached, the dissenting members of FLEC vow to fight on.

October 2006 -

Human rights organisations raise concern over the Angolan government's mounting pressure to enforce the peace deal.

January 2007 -

The FAA announces the incorporation of ex-FLEC combatants into its ranks and Antonio Bento Bembe is given the rank of retired general. The prospect of peace entices international oil companies to consider onshore oil exploration. Drilling in the Enclave has been restricted to offshore activities.

August 2007 -

Angola's President Dos Santos visits Cabinda and promises to push rural development.

2007-08 -

FLEC continues to claim that clashes with the FAA are causing casualties on both sides.

5 September 2008 -

The MPLA wins 81 percent of the vote in the first parliamentary elections in Angola since 1992.

October 2009 -

In tit-for-tat expulsions since August 2009 by the governments of Angola and DRC, more than 32,000 Angolans in DRC are repatriated to Angola, with hundreds going to Cabinda, and about 18,800 Congolese nationals are deported from Angola.

 January 2010 -

Togo's national football team is ambushed as it travels though the Enclave to compete in the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, leaving three dead. FLEC claims responsibility.



Sources: Institute for Security Studies (ISS) - South Africa, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Centre for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM), University of Maryland, USA.
Last updated: 12 January 2010
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