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ICE Case Studies
Number 129, 2004
by Alan Neff

Cabinda, Angola

Angola's Forgotten War
I. Case Background
II. Environment Aspect
III. Conflict Aspect
IV. Env. - Conflict Overlap
V. Related Information

I. Case Background

1. Abstract : The Portuguese explorers that settled Angola in 1575 settled Cabinda in 1885. More than half a century later the Portuguese would unite Cabinda with Angola. Rebellions began soon after and have continued despite to independence of Angola from Portugal and the end of the 27 year civil war that enflamed the rest of the country. Despite the wanton destruction that this war has caused, it is not the only significant issue facing many Cabindans today. Petroleum and Gas are the major exports of Cabinda and the investment by Western oil corporations like ChevronTexaco and TotalFinaElf and resulted in grave disparities in wealth between the land owned by these companies and the average Cabindan. Human Rights abuses have been alleged on all sides, rebel, government and corporation alike.

2. Description:

The Portuguese settled Cabinda in 1885 more than 300 years after first settling Angola the future country that Cabinda would become attached to. What exists now is a tension that resulted from that first pairing, the Cabindans do not feel that they are Angolan and the Angolan's see Cabinda as a rich province that they cannot let go. The Treaty of Simulambaco in 1885 recognized Cabinda's special status as a semi-autonomous state. It was an attempt by Portugal to stop encroachment by the French, Belgian and British colonials and was a bid by Cabindans to resist slavers and forced labours forced upon it by the Belgian Congo. It wasn't until 1956 that the two Portuguese colonies were joined together, but without negotiating with Cabinda. Rebellions began immediately and in 1974 the collapse of the Portuguese Facist government necessiated the release of colonial holdings. The negotiations for independence were not attended by the FLEC forces, the main independence party in Cabinda because it was believed by the Portuguese negotiators that the main parties in Angola (MPLA, UNITA, and the FNLA) represented their interests. In 1977 FLEC announced a provisional government of the Republic of Cabinda. At the heart of the matter once again is oil, Cabindan oil providing Angola with about half of its foriegn exchange earnings.

The situation in Cabinda consists of both Angolan government military forces waging a war with the guerillas and the oil corporations directly impacting the environment and people of Cabinda. To understand what is truly going on in Cabinda one must look at each situation individually and then combine them into the over all picture of Cabinda. Caindan's view themselves as distinctly separate from Angolans and a wholly different culture and society. Their movement for independence is not so much for profit or gain, but has political reality as a basis. The peoples are distinct.

On 5 March, 2004, Senior Angolan military officials denied that Cabindan separatists had killed 47 government soldiers in numerous clashes. The official described the claims as, ‘communiqués of desperation.’ ( – 5 Mar 2004) FLEC officials reported to Agence France reported that two of their own fighters had been killed

The war for independence in the enclave of Cabinda continues with vigor despite all attempts to stop it’s smouldering flames. In 1963, two organizations both created in 1960, The Movement for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (MLEC) and the Alliance of Mayombe combine for form the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC). The Organization of African Unity in the same year recognizes Cabinda as the 39th African state to be decolonized. Further attempts at the recognition of Cabinda as an independent entity have failed, the last major attempt in 1975 by Mobutu Sese Seko in the OAU failing because of the precedents it posed to separatist movements within the member nations. In the mid 1980’s amnesty was granted to some rebels and international recognition became increasingly scarce. Elections were boycotted by FLEC and talks between the government and the rebels never materialized. Angolan Defence Force (FAA) troops have numbered anywhere between a few thousand and nearly 30,000 in recent years.

What has caused problems within the enclave are the repeated dialogues and plans for peace and discussion that fail to materialize. Various attempts since the end of the civil war in Angola have proved fruitless and the conflict continues by the various faces of the Cabindan resistance. The people of Cabinda have been the ones who have suffered the most at this impasse. According to a Cabindan business man, ‘We need to sort this situation out so that we can rebuild the economy. There is nothing here. Poverty is all around us. We shouldn’t have to live like this.’ (Go to site) Officials on various political parties have continued to express their desire to achieve a dialogue with the separatists.

"The war happens like this. When FLEC's forces and the government forces met each other, the government soldiers turn against the people, take the people's things away - they have to flee from the shooting, into the bush. Because FLEC lives with the people, and whenever there is some action, the government troops are upon the people; this is what we are suffering." (Go to site)

In 2001, about 15,000 refugees were repatriated, a large number of these returned to Cabinda. The government provided land for many of these and a small food supply as well as building materials.

As recently as 2002 however, civil rights activists have reported on gross human rights violations by the FAA. ‘Terror in Cabinda’ reported on rapes, murders, torture and other violations that were committed by all sides, but mainly the government FAA. The report also stated that the FAA had kept peasants from farming without the presence of a soldier. Resettlement policies, moving Angolans to Cabinda to marginalize the local population have also aided to the problems faced by local residents.

In 1954 oil exploration began in Cabinda. Currently a number of countries drill in Cabinda’s rich reserves which amount to approximately 60% of Angola’s proven oil reserves. The nearly 1 million barrels of oil a day that Angola produces seems not to have a direct impact on the people of Cabinda. The Campaign for a Democratic Angola organized a straw poll asking Cabindans whether or not oil had benefited ordinary citizens.

2200 people responded to the poll, but only 3 responded affirmatively a 0.001% return.

MNC’s including ChevronTexaco and TotalFinaElf, and Italy’s Agip all have production facilities in and off of Cabinda. Since the end of the civil war, oil production output has increased and brought much needed hard currency to the ruling MPLA government of Angola. Security is supplied by the companies themselves and this has resulted in many oil corporations utilizing compounds that completely shut themselves off from the rest of the region. Poverty and continued human rights problems have only compounded this and have continued to give life to the rebel forces in Cabinda.


©ASI Europe Limited

Chevron’s holdings, nearly 40% of all oil holdings in Cabinda include the Malongo terminal. This is essentially a cordoned off section of Cabinda, used exclusively for the employees of Chevron. Food and water are flown in from overseas and the compound is an entirely self-sufficient entity. Gates and fences with armed guards keep the locals out. Landmines keep the Cabindans away, but near these security measures, shanty houses can be seen. Oil for lamps can be bought miles away in Cabinda city for nearly US$1/litre. The Cabindans argue that the oil companies should purchase more local goods, timber, food, and fish. Instead the companies import services duty-free and writing off many other in country costs as exploration or development expenses. only hurting the local economy. Angola has attempted to impose strict laws forcing the companies to build local infrastructure and help the community in which they reside. Food however is flow in from offshore as is water. Most of the employees never step off the terminal into Cabinda itself.

The Sullivan Principles were created by a Philadelphia pastor to help the people of Africa that he had worked with for years. The Sullivan Principles were a code of conduct designed to counter apartheid, that were made public at the UN. They include: express support of human rights; equal opportunity; respect for freedom of association; pay workers for at least their basic needs; keep a safe workplace; no bribes; training for the disadvantaged; and demonstrate the principles publicly.

According to ChevronTexaco, they support the Sullivan Principles created to develop ‘economic, social and political justice by companies where they do business.’ This means that they:
• Provide a safe and healthy workplace; protect human health and the environment; and promote sustainable development.
• Work with governments and communities in which we do business to improve the quality of life in those communities- their educational, cultural, economic and social well-being.
• Express our support for universal human rights

Reports from Cabinda certainly contradict these statements.

3. Duration: 1960- present day
4. Location: Africa, Southern Africa, Angola

5. Actors: FLEC, FLEC-FAC, FAA, MPLA, FLEC-R, DCR, Congo-Brazzaville



II. Environment Aspects

6. Type of Environmental Problem: Land pollution, Massive deforestation, industrial pollution. Poverty leads to overgrazing of arable land making agriculture production disastrous. Oil exploration has caused massive environmental


Trees are important in the lives of the local people as they provide a much needed source of income and also play an important role in the cultures of the people. Trees often have spiritual and social value deeper than the simple economic value. The Douka trees that the Cabindans rely so heavily upon have been suffering from the ravages of war. They used to export the trees to Portugal Germany and the Netherlands, which fetch anywhere from $100 to nearly $2000 per cubic meter as a main generator of income, or simply used the trees for their own private use.

The decentralization of government, but more importantly the completely lack of governmental laws and regulations, as well as the rampant use of the town by insurrectionists crossing in from the DRC have stripped bare the trees from Cabinda and have further impoverished the environment of Cabinda. Commercial forestry and mining have also hurt the trees as many of the forests were old and were not replaced after being demolished. Chevron Oil Corporation has also scoured the region in search for trees for it’s oil exploration interests in Cabinda, which provides nearly 60% of the oil revenue for Angola. It’s vast holdings have served only to hasten the degradation of many local environments.


7. Type of Habitat: Tropical Rainforest

8. Act and Harm Sites

Act site:
Cabinda Province, Angola
Harm Sites: Cabinda Province, Angola

Oil Production Sites: Block Zero and Block 14

III. Conflict Aspects

9. Type of Conflict: Civil war continues despite any internal and external efforts to stop it. Varying levels from open armed conflict to dialogues have continues for over 3 decades.

10. Level of Conflict: Low Civil War

11. Fatality Level of Dispute Total: Unknown, estimated at 70,000. Currently: less than 100 per year on either side in active fighting, but the environmental and social impact causes innumerable suffering.


IV. Environment and Conflict Overlap

12. Environment-Conflict Link and Dynamics:

Causal Diagram

13. Level of Strategic Interest: High. Due to the nature of the conflict over oil, but it appears to not be in the US interest to stop the conflict because it does not affect the output of Angolan oil, it is in the Angolan's interest to stop the fighting. Valuable resources in the form of negotiations (where applicable) and nearly 30,000 troops are being spent to keep about 200,000-300,000 people from open revolution. Admittedly many of them simply do not have the resources to live from day to day much less actively seek political change. It is of vital interest for the MNC's to maintain their holdings in the area

14. Outcome of Dispute: Pending

©ASI Europe Limited



V. Related Information and Sources

15. Related Cases

16. Relevant Websites & Literature

'Cabindans blame oil for their woes.'

'EC Aid for Angola.'

'Army denies rebels killed Soldiers.'

Terror in Cabinda

'Winder cooperation in Resettling Refugees.'

'Troops for Peacekeeping in Cote d'Ivoire'

'IRIN Web Special on Cabinda.'

'ChevronTexaco: Global Sullivan Principles.'

'Cabinda' Global Security Org.

'Cabinda: Local Bishop Wants Dialogue To Settle Conflict'

'Angola: Cabinda activists complain of harassment'

ANGOLA: Cabinda conflict a 'forgotten war'


Cabinda and Somaliland: A Comparative Study for Statehood and Independence

Government of Cabinda: Official website

Alan Neff: 04/2004