February 19, 2003

Plan to quell Cabinda conflict

The Angolan government is working on a political programme conducive to a peaceful solution to the conflict in northern oil-rich Cabinda province, according to the local ruling MPLA party First Secretary, Anibal Rocha. The programme is being prepared by a multisectoral commission consisting of experts from the offices of the President of the Republic and of the Prime Minister, as well as from the Cabinet Council' Secretariat and the Ministry of Territory Administration. It gives privilege to dialogue and all other aspects conducive to peace in Cabinda and will be submitted soon to competent authorities for approval prior to implementation, said Mr Rocha who is also the provincial governor for Cabinda.

The peace proposal would include various factions of the Cabinda Liberation Front (FLEC). "The first condition is that hostilities in Cabinda must cease ... The government wishes to engage Cabinda's traditional leaders in talks in order to persuade the FLEC to lay down their weapons and create proper conditions for dialogue," Rocha was quoted as saying. The separatists on Wednesday, February 19, cautiously welcomed the reports that the government was working on the plan. But Xavier Builo, a representative of the FLEC-FAC faction in the Netherlands said the group would "wait and see" if the government would carry through with its promise of further dialogue. "Up until now FLEC-FAC has not received any news about a possible plan to end the war in Cabinda. We hope the government is serious this time because there are still reports that there are abuses going on in the region. In the past, the government has made these promises only to deflect international attention from what is really happening in Cabinda," Builo alleged.

So far attempts to end the conflict in the enclave have failed. In recent "exploratory talks" between the two warring parties, the government said that while it supported a peaceful solution in Cabinda, it was not willing to consider changing the constitution to accommodate demands for independence. "Since the constitution is a man-made document, we find it a bit dishonest to say that it cannot be changed. The lack of political will is what is hampering any progress towards peace in Cabinda," Builo added. FLEC does not recognise the Alvor Treaty that signed the Cabinda province over to Angola after independence from Portugal in 1975, and has been calling for independence ever since.

Observers have said the protracted struggle between the separatists and the government has been sharpened by the region's substantial oil deposits, which account for about 60 percent of the country's oil revenues (Angola Press Agency /Luanda, IRIN)

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