Angola: Cabinda, an unsolvable problem?

By Marie Toulemonde
Posted on Wednesday, 3 August 2022 14:26

Infograph provided by Jeune Afrique.

Flec is one of the oldest rebel groups on the continent, born in the wake of the struggle for independence and fuelled by a desire for oil. Divided but still present, it has called for a boycott of the 24 August general elections. A look back at a guerrilla group that has survived for nearly 70 years.

It is a geographical anomaly, an Angolan enclave wedged between DRC and the Republic of Congo. It is also a geological anomaly, nicknamed the “African Kuwait” because of its immense oil reserves. Its 7,283 square kilometres, partly buried in the Mayombe forest and marine subsoil have enabled Luanda to become one of the continent’s largest black gold producers and never ceased to arouse envy. Cabinda has also been the scene, for nearly 70 years, of a latent conflict led today by a handful of separatists who claim their territory’s autonomy amid an atmosphere of almost general indifference.

However, despite the death in 2016 of the historical leader of the Front de Libération de l’Enclave de Cabinda (Flec), Henrique Tiago Nzita, the movement still exists and claims responsibility for some actions and attacks every year. For its part, the Angolan army continues to cordon off the area in pursuit of Flec fighters and is regularly accused of abuses and arbitrary detentions.

More advantageous tax regime

In early February, Estanislau Boma, who leads the rebel group’s armed wing, called on Cabindese to not go to the polls for the 24 August elections. A few days later, the Angolan government, despite its habit of denying the existence of unrest in this part of the country, admitted that attacks had been carried out not far from the Congolese border, in an area that serves as a rear base for the independence fighters.

In early July, the Angolan Parliament approved a proposal for a more favourable tax regime for the geographically isolated province, following a request from President João Lourenço. The decision comes just weeks before the unveiling of a brand new – and strategic – refinery in the city of Cabinda, and separatists will not be allowed to be spoilsports.

From the Republic of Congo kingdom to the Angolan civil war, from the Portuguese colonists to the Mouvement Populaire de Libération de l’Angola (MPLA), via a few sulphurous French and US mercenaries, a look back at an interminable oil-scented conflict.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options