Cabinda

The Cabinda Enclave – between the Congos – is a former portuguese protectorate that had separate administration from Angola (until 1956). With the end of the portuguese authoritarian and colonial regime in 1974, Angola’s MPLA forces invaded the territory.
A national liberation movement, FLEC, sought independence, and a low intensity conflict has remained for decades. In the meantime, the Angolan MPLA elite has made fortunes – and financed its struggle against UNITA – through Cabinda’s oil.

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«After several hours of a long march through the jungle, I reach the Chiluango River, the border between Zaire (DR Congo) and the Cabinda enclave. Two, low cut wooden canoes take us over the river, where a group of well-armed guerrillas suddenly appear. They belong to FLEC (Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda) who have been struggling for an independent Cabinda since 1974.

FLEC has controlled this area since the Portuguese left the country in 1974, and have been able to defend themselves in this thick forest against a number of attacks and military offensives by the Angolan army and Cuban troops, supported by MIG planes and Russian attack helicopters, while managing to survive with very little support from the outside world.

During the following two weeks I move around with the guerrillas inside the enclave; we pass through villages that have not seen a white man since 1974 and sneak by Angolan military posts so closely that we can hear them talk to each other.

This really deserves to be called the ‘unknown’ or ‘forgotten war’, I think, and this might even be one of the most fascinating conflicts on the whole continent. An unknown liberation war in the thick, steaming jungle just north of the mighty Congo River’s outlet into the Atlantic Sea, where colonial history, ruthless oil companies, big power games and political intrigues are ingredients that played a role in the successful robbery of a country that could be ‘Africa’s Kuwait’»

Peter Strandberg | Cabinda, Angola | 1996