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 results from the fusion of three kingdoms: N'Goyo, Loango and Kakongo. It is in area, and has a population of 264,584 (estimated in 2006). According to 1988 United States government statistics, the total population of the province was 147,200, with a near even split between total rural and urban populations. About one third of Cabindans are refugees living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is separated from Angola by a narrow strip of territory belonging to the DRC, which bounds the province on the south and the east. Cabinda is bounded on the north by the Republic of the Congo, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. Adjacent to the coast are some of the largest oilfields in the world. Petroleum exploration began in 1954.
Cabinda produces hardwoods, coffee, cacao, rubber, and palm oil products. Petroleum production began in 1968, and now accounts for most of Angola's production. Cabinda produces 700,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Cabinda Oil is associated with Sonangol, Agip Angola Lda (41%), Chevron (39.2%), Total (10%) and Eni (9.8%).
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. The Treaty of Simulambuco establishes in Cabinda a Protectorate of Portugal and many consider the occupation of the territory by Angola illegal.
Portuguese explorers, missionaries and traders arrived at the mouth of the Congo River in the mid-fifteenth 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.
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.
In 1975, the Treaty of Alvor integrated Cabinda into Angola, but this treaty was rejected by all Cabindan political organizations. These organizations argue that because they had no input on the document, it was, and is, illegal, and therefore does not bind them to Angola.
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. However, 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 enclave, in which he received the expected support of President Henri Lopes of Congo-Brazzaville. 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. FLEC has continued its political and military struggle for Cabindan independence since the invasion, with little success. FLEC has since split into several groups, some urging violent resistance, and some peaceful resistance.
The regional context changed dramatically in the late 1990s, particularly in Congo-Brazzaville and the DRC — a change that was actively pursued by Luanda. If previous regimes (particularly that of Pascal Lissouba in Brazzaville, which actively supported it materially and diplomatically) had been sympathetic to the Cabinda cause, this situation does not pertain today.
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 fact, for the first 15 years of Angola’s independence, the government had, at any point, approximately 2,000 troops stationed in Cabinda.
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.
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-FAC is no longer operative, this is disputed by the Republic of Cabinda and its President, N'zita Henriques Tiago. Recent hikes in oil prices have made Cabinda's untapped onshore oil reserves a valuable commodity. Both the Republic of Cabinda and Angola have awarded onshore oil and gas leases.
The argument of ethno-cultural specificity as a basis for self-determination is, and has been, vehemently opposed in Luanda, by both the government and several prominent intellectuals and civil society personalities. The MPLA’s Secretary-General, for example, has clearly characterized the argument as "not enough to grant it independence, because all the provinces in the country have specific cultures."
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.