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ANGOLA: Cabindan separatists pin hopes on international law

johannesburg, 6 March 2006 (IRIN) - A group of pro-separatist Cabindan organisations are threatening to file charges against Angola at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged human rights abuses in the oil-rich enclave.

"Cabinda will soon be filing a referral and request for investigation of Angolan war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity with The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court," said a statement last week by the so-called Republic of Cabinda Press Agency.

"We have been thinking about going to the ICC for a long time now, but first we needed to find the right partners and achieve international solidarity," Augostinoho Sekaya, head of human rights NGO Mpalabanda Cabinda Civil Association (MACC), told IRIN.

Cabinda, a sliver of land sandwiched between Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is internationally recognised as part of Angola, but since independence in 1975, Luanda's control has been resisted by the Front for the Liberation of Cabinda (FLEC) and its various offshoots. Cabinda produces 60 percent of Angola's oil.

"Troops from Angola are still occupying Cabinda and committing organised atrocities against Cabindans including rape, summary execution, and genocide," the statement said.

With the help of other human rights NGO's such as the Coalition for Reconcialition Transparancy and Citizenship (CRTC), MACC has been compiling annual reports on human rights violations in Cabinda dating back to 2002. According to Sekaya the reports will be published by the end of March.

"Since January [2006] we have already had 10 assassinations including four women and two children under the age of one and there have been many cases of arbitrary arrests and rape," Sekaya alleged. "The FLEC are not free from human rights abuse investigations, all parties will be investigated," he added.

According to Joaquim Nomakumdu of the CRTC "the first step is to employ lawyers to address all the pending human rights violation cases through the local judicial system and then go to the ICC."

"We have not officially filed at the ICC yet. We are applying for international support first," Sekaya said, adding that he is planning to address the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in Geneva at the end of March and then proceed to the ICC.

Lacking the funds to bring the allegations of abuse to the attention of the international community, Sekaya said the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) would sponsor his trip to UNCHR and later to the ICC.

According to Marino Busdachin, Secretary General of the UNPO, "this is the first serious attempt to collect evidence on the role of Angola in Cabinda - there are a lot of difficulties and any results will depend on the quality of the material that is collected, compiled and filed and presented to the prosecutor at the ICC."

UNOP, an international organisation committed to finding non-violent solutions to conflicts involving indigenous peoples, occupied nations, minorities and to protect human and cultural rights, has been supporting initiatives to bring Cabindan parties together and to open dialogue with the Angolan government.

"Cabindans are not necessarily calling for independence, they are looking for dialogue, the right of self determination, human rights and an element of democracy. At the moment there is goodwill from the Cabindans, we need to see if the intention from the [Angolan] government is the same," Busdachin said.

The separatists insist that the 250,000 Cabindans have their own distinct history and culture, and the enclave was illegally occupied by Angola at independence.

[Click here for chronology of the conflict]

Theme (s): Conflict, Economy, Governance, Human Rights, Refugees/IDPs,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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