The Cabinda Conflict: Background To The Togo Bus Shooting

A background to the slaying committed in Cabinda...
The purpose of this article is to better explain the background to the shooting that left the Togo team bus driver dead in Cabinda on Friday, January 8th 2010.

Cabinda profile:
Cabinda is an exclave of Angola separated from the country's mainland by the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) and the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville.) While by law it's a part of Angola, local rebels dispute its status, and battle for independence.

Cabinda, which is slightly smaller than Puerto Rico, is bordered by the two Congos and the Atlantic Ocean. Home to just over 250,000 people, it is largely jungle, and has been a part of Angola since an invasion in 1975, a year after the latter's independence in 1974. In the late 1960s, oil was discovered in Cabinda.

Independence movement: Various armed and political groups have vied for Cabinda's independence since its absorption into Angola. The justifications range from the ethnic to the linguistic to the economic.

Reasons for conflict: Aside from any ethnic/territorial claims towards independence, finance is involved, most notably through oil. Despite its tiny size, Cabinda and its coastal area is home to a considerable majority of Angola's oil reserves. While the local authorities receive some of the oil companies' revenues in the form of tax, Cabinda opposition groups complain that too much of the money is given over to the Angolan central government, with aims ranging from greater autonomy to increased funding to, most commonly, outright independence.

Path to peace: Angola as a whole played host to a civil war that ran  from independence until 2002; Cabinda's conflict has raged on much longer. However, in 2006 Antonio Bento Bembe, still representing the pro-independence organisation Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), signed a peace accord with Angola in Brazzaville. Nonetheless various FLEC offshoots and splinter groups opposed this bargain, stating that the resistance will continue. While numerous such groups exist, there can be a broad stroke drawn between FLEC-Renovada, which signed the peace deal and seeks to co-operate with the Angolan state (Bento Bembe in fact serves as a government minister), and opposing organisations, such as the FLEC-FAC (FLEC-Armed Forces of Cabinda), who reject it.

The group FLEC-PM (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda - Military Position) claimed responsibility for the Togo attack.

Justification for attack: FLEC-PM released a statement via Radio France International after the attack, in which they stated, "The CAF (Confederation of African Football) was warned repeatedly that this was a country at war. They had documents explaining this, but they wouldn't heed the warnings. They must take responsibility. We are not rebels, but a military and political movement originating in Cabinda. We're not rebels, but resistance fighters. Cabinda is a territory illegally occupied by Angola, and we are fighting for its liberation.

"This operation was just the beginning of a series of targeted actions that will continue constantly throughout Cabinda's territory."

Unconfirmed reports attributed to FLEC-PM indicated that the attack was actually aimed at the Angolan security escort that accompanied the Togolese bus, and that the driver and squad were merely caught in the crossfire, but this remains only a rumour at time of publication.

Matches in Cabinda?: Despite the delicate situation, Angola opted to hold ACN matches in Cabinda, with the aforementioned Bento Bembe insisting that the area was safe, secure, and under Angolan control.

What happens now: Update January 10, 19:28 GMT - At time of writing, Togo are departing Cabinda and heading for home, ending their participation in the ACN. The fate of the remaining matches in Cabinda is unknown at this time but they are thought to be going ahead as planned.

Ewan Macdonald & Massaer Ndiaye,

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