April 7, 2003

ANGOLA: Separatists say open to talks over Cabinda

Separatists in Angola's northern Cabinda enclave on Monday, April 7, said although independence was a "desirable solution" to the ongoing conflict, they remained open to negotiation over the "future status" of the province. "We have always said that we are willing to talk to the government, but negotiations must be done in a manner that is both transparent and in accordance with internationally acceptable standards," Francoise Xavier Builo, FLEC-FAC representative in the Netherlands, told IRIN. Neither FLEC or its factions (FLEC Renovada and FLEC-FAC) recognise the Alvor Treaty that signed the Cabinda province over to Angola after independence from Portugal in 1975 and have been calling for independence ever since.

Observers say the protracted struggle between the separatists and the government has been intensified by the region's substantial oil deposits, which account for about 60 percent of Angola's oil revenues.

Builo added that the government had yet to respond to concerns over widespread rights abuses raised at a meeting with officials in Paris earlier this year. "During our Paris meeting we asked the government to consider recommitting to the protection and promotion of human rights in Cabinda. Also, we asked that there be a willingness to address the growing refugee crisis among many Cabindans in both the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] and Congo, and finally, use SADC [South African Development Community] and the United Nations as a possible means of deciding the final status of Cabinda. Regrettably, until now, FLEC-FAC has still not received any response to our proposals," he said. In December last year human rights activists released details of widespread allegations of human rights abuses in the enclave.

Although the report covered alleged abuses by both the Angolan security forces and the FLEC, the overwhelming number of accusations were made against government forces. However, observers told IRIN that recent statements in which the government has alluded to further dialogue with the separatists signalled a thaw in relations between the two warring parties.

On Friday, April 4, the anniversary of Angola's peace agreement, the government reportedly said it was willing to consider a "constitutional solution" to the Cabinda stalemate. Radio Ecclessia in Angola last week also quoted the army's Deputy Chief of Staff General Nunda Sachipengo as saying "the worst of the military phase" was over, and the army was now engaged in "normal activities". The government has expressed willingness to open talks on limited autonomy for Cabinda, but has ruled out full independence for the enclave. Analysts have suggested that given the region's oil wealth authorities in Luanda were unlikely to relinquish complete control. (IRIN)


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