July 17, 2006

Cabinda ceasefire ends 31-year separatist struggle

Separatists in Angola’s oil-producing province of Cabinda have signed a ceasefire to end their 31-year independence struggle — in return for greater autonomy from Luanda. The agreement was signed by Angolan Territorial Administration Minister Virgilio Ferreira de Fontes Pereira and the head of a separatist umbrella group called the Cabindan Forum for Dialogue (FCD), Antonio Bento Bembe. “We have signed a peace deal to end the war we declared in 1975,” said Macario Romao Lembe, a spokesman for the FCD, at the signing ceremony in a hotel in Brazzaville. The signing was attended by Cabinda tribal authorities.

Cabinda, a coastal enclave which produces about half of Angola’s 1,4-million barrels of oil a day, is separate from the rest of the former Portuguese colony. It is wedged between Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Republic. The separatists, led by the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), have fought one of Africa’s longest guerrilla wars since the Portuguese left Angola in 1975. The Angolan government announced there was a cease-fire agreement in early July, but rebels denied this. Analysts say that the impact of a cease-fire on oil operations in Cabinda is expected to be modest. Oil firms such as the major Cabinda operator, Chevron, have always taken heavy security precautions. There has not been open fighting for years. According to Pereira, the agreement included an immediate reduction of government troops in Cabinda and an amnesty law for separatists, which still needs approval from Angola’s parliament.

The agreement foresees an administrative statute for Cabinda, decentralising authority in areas such as government finances, trade, industry and tourism. A joint commission will be charged with implementing the deal. However, the agreement ducked the crucial issue of the distribution of Cabinda’s oil revenues. Although Bembe has spearheaded the negotiation efforts, some other leaders in the fragmented separatist movement have questioned his authority. (Angola Press Agency, Luanda)


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