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Q&A: Cabinda conflict

Rodrigues Mingas
Rodrigues Mingas says his men carried out the attack

A deadly attack on Togo's football team in Angola has thrust into the media spotlight a long-running insurgency in the province of Cabinda.

Who attacked the Togolese team bus?

Two factions of the rebel group Flec, the Front for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda, have claimed responsibility.

They are a small, fragmented insurgent group who deny Angola's right to govern the province and want independence.

The group - in one form or another - has been fighting since the 1960s.

It first took up arms against the colonial power Portugal.

Then when Angola gained independence in 1975 and Cabinda was absorbed into Angola, Flec rebels continued to fight against the Luanda government.

In recent years Flec leaders have fled into exile, and the claims of responsibility for the attack on the Togo team bus came from spokesmen living in Europe and a leaflet distributed in Luanda.

Neither statement could be independently verified.

The attack on the Togolese footballers has raised serious questions about whether Cabinda should have been chosen as a venue for the Africa Cup of Nations.

What is the fighting about?

Cabindans were not consulted in 1975 about becoming a part of Angola. They are cut off from the rest of the country by part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cabinda, Angola map

No political groups in the territory accepted their new status as Angolans.

Flec regards the Luanda government as an occupying force in the same way that it had viewed the Portuguese.

But access to minerals is also key to the insurgency.

Angola is one of sub-Saharan Africa's top two oil producers and has hugely lucrative contracts with countries including the US and China.

Much of that oil comes from Cabinda - so the Luanda government is unlikely to let the province declare independence.

How strong are the rebels?

While civil war raged across Angola, Flec was able to mount an effective guerrilla campaign, taking advantage of the chaos in the rest of the country.

But the civil war officially ended in 2002 and the newly formed government launched a concerted attack against the rebels.

Analysts say the insurgents' military capabilities were all but wiped out by the government offensive of 2002-2003.

In recent years the group has splintered into rival factions.

The first group to claim responsibility for the attack on the Togo team is known as the Flec-Posicao Militar (Military Position) - led by France-based Rodrigues Mingas.

The other group is Flec-Fac (Armed Forces of Cabinda), thought to be a bigger, better organised faction.

Is there any chance of peace?

Angola's civil war ended in 2002 with a peace deal between the MPLA government and the main rebel group Unita.

Flec did not sign the 2002 peace deal, but four years later an agreement was reached - apparently with a faction of Flec - which allowed the government to declare the Cabinda insurgency finished.

However, the BBC's former Angola correspondent Lara Pawson says the deal between Flec and the government was a sham.

The supposed leader of Flec who signed the deal was in fact not recognised by any of the group's disparate factions.

So the insurgency continues. But it is very low level and the attack on the Togo team convoy is Flec's most prominent act for many years.



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