Background Report: Cabinda
To shed a bitttt of light on the background politics likely motivating the attack on the Togo squad’s bus (which Cabinda Affairs Minister Bento Bembe has already called “an act of terrorism”), we’d like to welcome our in-house Luso-enthusiast and Portugal-based correspondent Audrey:
The attack on the Togo national team has cast attention on an oft-neglected part of Africa: the region of Cabinda. When Cabindan chiefs signed a treaty with the Portuguese government in 1885, they were deemed a semi-autonomous protectorate that would become known as ‘Portuguese Congo’, and it was not until 1956 that Portugal began to govern Angola & Cabinda together — needless to say, without asking the Cabindans. The gradual administrative merge between Portuguese dictator Salazar’s two “provinces” prompted the creation of the Front for the Liberation of the Cabindan Enclave (FLEC), an independence movement that was to fight not only for liberation from Portugal, but for separation from Angola. Following the 1974 revolution in Portugal, as the Angolan independence movements of the MPLA, the FNLA, and UNITA met with the new Portuguese government to discuss the terms of their independence (which was to quickly devolve into a decades long civil war), no one bothered to invite FLEC along. The political groups of Cabinda refused to recognize the resulting treaty, which included a provision naming Cabinda a province of Angola, and declared themselves independent, which naturally the Angolans then refused to recognize. Despite the end of the civil war in 2002, the conflicts between Cabinda and Angola did not officially end for several more years, when a ceasefire agreement was signed, although the argument can be made that they still have yet to end, as offshoot FLEC groups continue to violently declare their independence.
And why does Angola continue to hold on so relentlessly to Cabinda? The same old story: OIL. Oil is Angola’s leading source of revenue, and underdeveloped Cabinda, sometimes referred to as the “Kuwait of Africa”, is the home of more than half of the country’s oil production. Independence then, seems not only unlikely, but impossible. Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos has already offered to hold a referendum on Cabinda’s independence — or rather, to hold an Angola-wide referendum that would allow 12 million Angolans and 230,000 Cabindans to vote on the matter — an empty gesture indeed.
Despite the legitimacy of Cabinda’s claim for autonomy, attacking a bus full of Togolese futebol players & killing innocent civilians has inarguably done more harm than good for their cause.