Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda
(Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda--FLEC)
The Angolan enclave of Cabinda, located north of the DRC's Bas-Congo province, is separated from the main body of Angola and land access requires travel through DRC territory. The enclave plays a significant role in Angola's oil industry, and is also home to a group agitating for separation from Angola, the Frente para a Libertacao do Enclave de Cabinda (FLEC). About a dozen separatist groups, three of them armed, are demanding Independence for Cabinda, which was made part of Angola in 1956 by its former portuguese colonial rulers. After independence in 1975, Angola made the region one of its 14 provinces.
The Mayombe (also spelled Maiombe) of the mountain forests of Cabinda spoke a dialect of Kikongo but were not part of the ancient kingdom. That part of the Mayombe living in Zaire did join with the Zairian Bakongo in the Alliance of Bakongo (Alliance des Bakongo-- Abako) during the period of party formation in the Belgian Congo, but the Cabindan Mayombe (and other Kikongo-speaking groups in the enclave), relatively remote geographically and culturally from the Bakongo of Angola proper, showed no solidarity with the latter. Instead, in 1961 the Mayombe formed a Cabindan separatist movement, the Alliance of Mayombe (Alliance de Mayombe--Alliama), which merged with two other Cabindan separatist movements in 1963 to form the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda--FLEC).
Several movements advocating a separate status for Cabinda were founded in the early 1960s, all of them basing their claims on their own interpretation of Cabindan history. The most important of these was the Movement for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Mouvement pour la Libération de l'Enclave de Cabinda--MLEC), led by Luis Ranque Franque, which had evolved out of various émigré associations in Brazzaville. In December 1961, a faction of the MLEC headed by Henriques Tiago Nzita seceded to form the Action Committee for the National Union of Cabindans (Comité d'Action d'Union Nationale des Cabindais--CAUNC). A third group, Alliance of Mayombe (Alliance de Mayombe--Alliama), led by António Eduardo Sozinho, represented the Mayombe (also spelled Maiombe), the ethnic minority of the enclave's interior. The three groups resolved their differences and united in 1963 as the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda--FLEC). When the MPLA began its military incursions into Cabinda in 1964, it encountered hostility not only from coastal members of FLEC who were living in and near the town of Cabinda but also from Mayombe peasants, whose region near the Congo frontier MPLA guerrillas had to cross.
Emulating the FNLA, FLEC created a government in exile on January 10, 1967, in the border town of Tshela in Zaire. Reflecting earlier divisions, however, the faction headed by Nzita established the Revolutionary Cabindan Committee (Comité Révolutionnaire Cabindais) in the Congolese town of Pointe Noire.
In 1975, the movement broke into three factions: FLEC-Ranque Franque; FLEC-N'Zita, led by Henrique Tiaho N'Zita, and FLEC-Lubota, led by Francisco Xavier Lubota. In 1976 the independance of Cabinda is proclaimed in Kampala (Uganda). A "provisional government" sat in Kinshasa (Zaïre).
In November 1977 a splinter group styling itself the Military Command for the Liberation of Cabinda was organized, while in June 1979 the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Cabinda esablished another splinter, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Cabinda (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Cabinda - MPLC). In 1979 uncontrolled elements of the FLEC might have destroyed some installations of the railway linking Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire. This led to a deterioration of the relations between the FLEC and Congo.
In the 1980s FLEC-UNITA, or UNIFLEC, was reported to be operating in Cabinda with South African assistance, however the group's activities ceased following withdrawal of Pretoria's aid. In the early 1990s two other groups, the National Union for the Liberation of Cabinda (União Nacional de Libertação de Cabinda - UNLC), led by Lumingu Luis Gimby, and the Communist Committee of Cabinda (Comité Communista de Cabinda - CCC), led by Kaya Mohamed Yay, were linked to separatist activities.
In February 1993, insurgents of the Renovada faction of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) kidnapped an officer of the United Nations Angola Verification Mission and released him unharmed three weeks later.
Heavy fighting was reported in mid-1997 between Angolan government troops and separatist forces in the oil-rich enclave of Cabinda. Fighting was concentrated in Tandu-Zinze, Buko-Zawu and Belize, in the north of the province. The Angolan defence ministry said that the separatists of the Cabinda Enclave Liberation Front (Flec-Renewed) has a fighting force of some 1,200 troops. FLEC had mounted 15 attacks on army targets between May and August 1997 in the enclave.
After years of reduced activity, in 2001 a renewed independence movement was again active in the enclave of Cabinda. This movement, which calls itself FLEC-RENOVADA (Renewed Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda) started to target foreigners as it tries to gain international attention for its cause - namely, independence from Angola.
The FLEC continues to carry out a low-level insurgency in the area, with sporadic attacks on army patrols and oil workers. Following an attack in December 2007 that killed a Brazilian paramedic working for an oil company, in early March 2008 FLEC fighters seriously wounded a Portuguese technician who was working for Tecnovia. In late March, they attacked an installation belonging to the Portuguese company Emcica, killing two workers, one from Cabinda and another from Congo-Brazzaville. According to a subsequent announcement by FLEC, three Angolan soldiers were also killed.
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