Cabinda rebels 'to hand over arms'
By Jonathan Davis
By Jonathan Davis
Separatists in Angola's northern province of Cabinda were due today to turn in their weapons as part of a deal to end a 31-year conflict with the government in Luanda. Guns and other arms once used by Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Flec) guerrillas were scheduled to be destroyed following a ceremony in the city of Cabinda, the capital of the oil-rich province, the state-run Angop news agency said.
The decommissioning comes about five months after a faction of Flec signed a peace agreement with Luanda that gives special status to the restive coastal region and an amnesty to all former combatants in the separatist struggle.
"The establishment of peace and reconciliation in Cabinda opens a new era of brotherhood and political and military stability that will permit the reconstruction and development of the northern Angola region," Angop said.
Angola's Parliament, which is dominated by the ruling party of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, has approved a set of measures to restructure Cabinda's government and alter the duties and tariffs that apply to goods exported or imported through the province, a coastal enclave separated from the rest of Angola by a narrow strip of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Angola, which also has pledged to give Cabindan separatists ministerial and diplomatic positions as well as integrate them into the army, is eager to end hostilities in the region, which accounts for more than half of the nation's oil production.
Cabindans frequently complain that they see little from the country's growing oil wealth. Angola is Africa's second-largest producer of crude after Nigeria, and its economy has been booming since the end of a 27-year civil war in 2002.
Companies, especially in the oil sector, are clamouring to stake their claim to this bonanza. Much of the interest is focused on Cabinda, a former Portuguese protectorate.
Oil exploration there has tended to revolve around offshore drilling, but analysts say a lasting peace would pave the way for significant onshore activity.
At the same time, they worry that the fractured nature of FLEC could prevent Luanda from putting a final lid on separatist ambitions. A faction led by Nzita Tiago, a leading Flec figure, already has rejected the peace agreement with the government, Reuters reported.
18:10 GMT, 05 January 2007 last updated: 23:44 GMT, 05 January 2007