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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

ANGOLA: Human rights groups protest conditions in Cabinda

JOHANNESBURG, 8 January 2004 (IRIN) - Human rights groups have once again called on the international community to do more to address allegations of human rights abuses in Angola's northern province of Cabinda, following reports that at least six people were killed during recent clashes between government troops and separatists.

The Luanda-based Catholic radio station, Ecclesia, this week reported that two civilians had died at Mikuma village, about 100 km northeast of Cabinda town, when government troops countered an attack by the Cabinda Enclave Liberation Front (FLEC), the main separatist group in the province.

According to the report, four men were killed in the nearby village of Kaiu during an assault mounted by an army special forces unit in a reprisal against the FLEC attack.

"The worst is that every time FLEC attacks, the army responds by attacking civilians and, in some cases, routing entire villages. These are blatant human rights violations which are largely ignored," Rafael Marques, a representative of the NGO, Open Society Angola, told IRIN.

In the past, local government officials have acknowledged incidents of rights abuses but claimed these were isolated and not "institutionalised".

Last year the Ad-hoc Commission for Human Rights in Cabinda - a group of lawyers, academics and civic activists - released a 30-page report detailing allegations of rights abuses in the province.

The report, "A Year of Pain", contained testimonies of alleged murders, disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture, carried out largely by the Angolan army (FAA).

Martinho Nombo, a member of the commission, told IRIN on Thursday: "Over the last two years an increasing number of civilian lives have been lost because of the conflict. The death of the four men is part of this trend. Whenever FLEC attacks, FAA retaliates against civilians because they suspect that villagers are collaborating with the separatists."

He added that despite pronouncements by the authorities in recent months about finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, the situation had "worsened" in 2003.

"There has been no progress in trying to find a solution to the problem, so we find ourselves in a permanent state of insecurity," Nombo said.

IRIN was unable to obtain comment from the authorities in Cabinda.

Talks between the government and leaders of FLEC's various factions have so far been limited, and without tangible results.

Marques appealed to the international community to do more to persuade Luanda to address the deteriorating situation in the enclave.

"It is imperative that the Luanda government be pressured by donors and the diplomatic community to deal with the Cabinda situation in a humane manner. So far, it appears that no one is particularly concerned," Marques added.

Separatists have been battling the central government since Angola achieved independence in 1975. They claim the enclave has its own distinct and separate identity, history and culture, and that it has been illegally occupied by the ruling MPLA government since 1975.

However, observers say it is the province's oil deposits that lie at the heart of the dispute. Cabinda is divided from the rest of Angola by a sliver of the Democratic Republic of Congo and produces 60 percent of Angola's oil.



Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance




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