Overview & Introduction
The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) is a guerrilla movement fighting for the independence of the Angolan province of Cabinda. After Angola obtained its independence from Portugal in 1975, the territory of Cabinda became an exclave province of the country (1). The FLEC is currently fighting the Cabinda War. Interestingly, Cabinda is located north of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Bas-Congo province, signifying that land access into Cabinda requires travelling through DRC territory as it does not connect directly with Angola (2).
In 1963, three organisations — the Movement for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (MLEC), Action Committee of the Cabinda National Union (CAUNC), and the Mayombe National Alliance (ALLIAMA) — merged to form the FLEC. During the Portuguese Colonial War which took place between 1961 and 1974, the nationalist movements of Cabinda fought against the Portuguese Armed Forces. Once Angola had obtained independence in 1975, the FLEC organised a provisional government and self-proclaimed its independence. However, the People’s Armed Forces of Liberation of Angola, as well as the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (which was supported by Cuba) invaded the Cabinda territory. The FLEC did not manage to keep its control of urban areas and was hence heavily suppressed by Angolan forces (3).
The period which followed caused the FLEC to divide and part ways. However, the movement was reborn in the 1990s under two separate branches; the FLEC-Renovada and the FLEC-Armed Forces of Cabinda (FLEC-FAC) (3). The former was captured by the Angolan Armed Forces in 2002 and this led to the signing of a cease-fire. FLEC-FAC has often criticised this ceasefire and it continues to fight for Cabinda’s independence since. In fact, in 2006, the FLEC-FAC even demanded the African Union to intervene and support its political struggle. Around this time, the FLEC also formed the Cabinda Forum for Dialogue, an organisation more centred around the civil sector. This initiative fuelled the separatist ideology in the region (3).
International Relations & Alliances
The FLEC movement’s main alliances involve the United States and France. French intelligence services have often been connected with FLEC since the Cold War as France used the opportunity to oppose the MPLA government in Angola (which was backed by Cuba). Even after the war, however, French intelligence continues to be connected the FLEC. The ‘Angologate’ arms scandal also directly linked the nation to the Angolan civil war as leaks revealed that it was illicitly selling arms to Angola (4).
In addition to the illicit sale of arms, France has an interest in Angola due to TotalEnergies (5) — a French oil exporter. After TotalEnergies discovered a patch of oil in 2009, it has continued to increase its influence in Angola; which is now the second-biggest contributor of oil to TotalEnergies. The US has also been heavily involved in Cabinda due to the territory’s oil reserves. There have been claims that the US’ involvement in Cabinda has worsened the corruption problem in Cabinda and in Angola as a whole. France’s support for the FLEC (heavily impacted by its desired influence in Angola) has shifted in 2010 after the FLEC organised attacks on Togo’s national football team. Since then, France has allowed the extradition of FLEC separatist leaders.
There have also been allegations that another branch of the FLEC — the FLEC-UNITA — was operating in Cabinda thanks to support from South Africa during the 1980s. This aid eventually stopped and hence FLEC-UNITA fell apart in the same years.
Approach to Resistance
On the 8th of January 2010, the Togo national football team’s bus was attacked by gunmen. This occurred as the team was travelling to the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations tournament. The attack killed Togo’s assistant coach, its team spokesman, and its bus driver. The attack was claimed by a branch of the FLEC. The secretary general of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda-Military Position (Flec-PM) — Rodrigues Mingas — later explained that his fighters were supposed to attack security guards instead of the national team’s bus. He claimed the injuries and killings of Togolese staff/players were purely accidental (6).
In addition to this attack, the FLEC kidnapped an officer of the United Nations Angola Verification Mission in February 1993 (and released him unharmed). The group also continues sporadic attacks on oil workers and army patrols. In 2007, for instance, a Brazilian paramedic who worked for an oil company in Angola was killed by the FLEC. A Portuguese technician who worked for Tecnovia was also severely wounded in 2008 (3).
Works Cited (Chicago-style)
(1) - “UNPO Resolution Concerning the Cabinda Enclave.” UNPO, July 7, 2005. https://www.unpo.org/content/view/2744/99/.
(2) - “Geography of Cabinda.” Geography. Accessed October 8, 2022. https://geography.name/cabinda/.
(3) - Pike, John. “Military of the FLEC.” Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Frente para a. Accessed October 8, 2022. https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/flec.htm.
(4) - Marques de Morais, Rafael. “How France Fuelled Angola's Civil War | Rafael Marques De Morais.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, November 1, 2009. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/nov/01/angola-civil-war-falcone-conviction.
(5) - America's New Frontier - Angola. YouTube. YouTube, 2007. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMOxUZAHNLk.
(6) - Sturcke, James, Paul Myers, and David Smith. “Togo Footballers Were Attacked by Mistake, Angolan Rebels Say.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, January 11, 2010. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jan/11/two-arrested-togo-football-attack.