Angolan rebels vow to fight on

“We hope this (agreement) will allow the future leaders of Cabinda to manage the huge physical and human resources of this province in the best interests of the peoples of the region and Angola,” President Eduardo dos Santos said in welcoming the accord. The agreement was also hailed by the American government.

“The United States strongly supports the Cabindan peace process,” the embassy said in a statement. “For the people of Cabinda, this memorandum is more than just a document on peace and reconciliation; it is the promise of economic development and increased political influence.”

But sections of Cabinda’s splintered separatist movement, including the rebel Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), said they would not recognise the “Memorandum of Understanding” signed in Angola’s southern port city of Namibe.

“This agreement is a fake, and we will not be signing ‘ we will not even be attending,” said Raul Danda, a spokesman for the Cabinda Forum for Dialogue (FDC), an umbrella group of the province’s secessionist movements that includes civil society groups, Catholic Church representatives and some members of FLEC.

“We believe Cabinda deserves full independence and if not that, then at least some real autonomy, but this agreement won’t achieve that,” Danda said by telephone from Luanda.

Cabinda, a thin sliver of land sandwiched between Congo-Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and internationally recognised as part of Angola, is home to about 400,000 people.

Central to the argument for self-determination among the separatists is that, unlike mainland Angola, Cabinda was never a Portuguese colony, but a protectorate. They claim the territory was illegally occupied by the ruling MPLA government following independence in 1975.

Talks on ending the three decades of fighting began last month in neighbouring Congo Brazzaville between the government and Ant’nio Bento Bembe, a former FLEC leader who claims to represent the FDC.

But members of the FDC that IRIN spoke to described Bembe as a stooge.

“Bembe is not representing Cabinda’s aspirations. The Angolan government insisted on negotiating with him, but they have given him money and he doesn’t represent the people of Cabinda,” said Danda, who heads a human rights group in Cabinda.

He maintained that FLEC’s president, N’Zita Tiago, was unaware of the negotiations, and said Bembe had no authority to negotiate on behalf of FLEC.

Billions of dollars in oil revenue are at stake. Angola is Africa’s second-biggest oil producer and is expected to pump two million barrels a day by 2007, with the disputed Cabinda enclave and its offshore wells accounting for about 60 percent of the output.

The peace deal demands recognition of Angola as a “unitary and indivisible state”, with Cabinda being granted “special administrative status”, but, crucially, that has not been clearly defined. The news agency, Angop, reported that FLEC would be integrated into both security and civil roles in a future semi-autonomous province.

Angola’s former rebel movement, UNITA, which waged a 27-year civil war on the mainland before signing a power-sharing agreement in 2002, said the deal signed in Namibe might not end the fighting in Cabinda.

“To find a durable solution, the talks should include all the active players of Cabinda, including the historical leader, N’Zita Tiago,” a UNITA statement said. “The option of excluding some sectors and leaders of Cabinda, and to convene convenient interlocutors, may not contribute to the solution desired by everyone.” ‘ IRIN.

August 2006
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