- The main rebel groups of the former Portuguese colony Cabinda and civil society groups have met in The Netherlands to create a unitary Cabindan voice in possible peace negotiations with Angola. The meeting resulted in a merger of Cabinda's rebel groups and a mandate to seek "a peaceful solution" to the conflict with Angola.
According to a statement sent to afrol News from the Cabindan rebel groups, a recent meeting in Helvoirt, Netherlands, had succeeded in unifying Cabinda's fragmented pro-independence movement. The territory's main active rebel force, Cabinda Enclave Liberation Front - Armed Forces of Cabinda (FLEC-FAC) during the meeting merged with the important FLEC-Renovada rebel group.
- This very meeting means the fusion of the two political and military movements [of Cabinda], whose name from now on is FLEC, the statement says. The Cabindan pro-independence groups thus return to the movement's original name - going back to the 1963 struggle against Portugal - before the fragmentation of the 1980s.
The meeting in The Netherlands united FLEC-FAC President N'Zita Henriques Tiago, the President and founder of FLEC-Renovada, Antonio Bento Bembe, and Catholic Vicar-General Raul Tati. Father Tati of the Cabinda Diocese represented the enclave's civil society.
In addition to the merger between FLEC-FAC and FLEC-Renovada, the meeting of Cabinda's most prominent leaders also decided on the creation of a new Cabindan Dialogue Forum, uniting the new FLEC rebels and civil society.
- The Cabindan Dialogue Forum shall from now on be the only valid, representative and capable mediator to handle the dialogue with the Angolan government, the statement says. "It will be disposed to engage in negotiations with the Angolan government with an aim of searching a peaceful solution to the political conflict between the Cabindan people and Angola," the leaders' statement adds.
The new FLEC and the Cabindan Dialogue Forum however were to remain loyal to the "high aspirations of the people of the Cabindan nation" in its search for peace. While the united rebel leaders now openly seek peace with Angola, they give no indications on whether they are willing to give up their independence goal.
The Cabinda enclave, located at the oil-rich coast between Congo Kinshasa and Congo Brazzaville, has experienced continued warfare and strife since the early 1960s. Cabindan independence activists insist the small territory was governed separately from Angola during Portuguese colonialism.
Portugal formally established a protectorate in Cabinda in 1885. The protectorate was indeed governed separately from Angola until reorganisations in 1956. In 1963, the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) listed Cabinda and Angola as two separate states that still had to be decolonised. As the Portuguese withdrew from their colonies in 1975, Angola however declared Cabinda as "an integral and inalienable part" of the new independent country.
The Angolan Army has since 1975 fought against FLEC in a war that has caused an estimated 35 percent of Cabinda's 750,000 inhabitants to flee to the two Congos. After the Angolan civil war ended in 2002, FLEC has suffered a long list of fatal military defeats. In June last year, the Angolan Army announced its victory over Cabinda's separatist movements.
FLEC-FAC, with an estimated number of troops of no more than 2,000 armed men, however has been able to maintain some military presence in Cabinda since the Angola-declared victory last year. Several attempts by Cabindan representatives to start negotiating with Angolan authorities have failed due to the fragmentation of the independence movement.
Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos earlier has offered Cabindans autonomy and a greater part of the large oil revenues produced in the enclave. The Luanda government however has urged Cabindans to find a "valid interlocutor" with which it can negotiate. This, according to the new FLEC, has now become the Cabindan Dialogue Forum.
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