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Cabinda Province

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Country  Angola
Area  7,270 km2
Capital  Cabinda
Population  688,285

Cabinda (also spelled Kabinda, formerly Portuguese Congo, known locally as Tchiowa) is an exclave and province of Angola, a status that has been disputed by many political organizations in the territory. The capital city is also called Cabinda. The province is divided into four municipalities—Belize, Buco Zau, Cabinda and Landana.


Map of Cabinda Province

Modern Cabinda is the result of a fusion of three kingdoms: NGoyo, Loango and Kakongo. It has an area of 7,270 km2 (2,810 sq mi) and a population of 688,285 (2014 census). According to 1988 United States government statistics, the total population of the province was 147,200, with a near even split between total rural and urban populations. At one point an estimated one third of Cabindans were refugees living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; however, after the 2007 peace agreement, refugees started returning home.

Cabinda is separated from the rest of Angola by a narrow strip of territory belonging to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which bounds the province on the south and the east. Cabinda is bounded on the north by the Republic of the Congo, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. Adjacent to the coast are some of the largest offshore oil fields in the world. Petroleum exploration began in 1954 by the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company, when the territory was under Portuguese rule. Cabinda also produces hardwoods, coffee, cacao, rubber, and palm oil products, however, petroleum production accounts for most of Cabindas domestic product. Cabinda produces 700,000 barrels (110,000 m3) of crude oil per day. Cabinda Oil is associated with Sonangol, Agip Angola Lda (41%), Chevron (39.2%), Total (10%) and Eni (9.8%).

In 1885, the Treaty of Simulambuco established in Cabinda a protectorate of Portugal and a number of Cabindan independence movements consider the occupation of the territory by Angola illegal. While the Angolan Civil War largely ended in 2002, an armed struggle persists in the exclave of Cabinda, where some of the factions have proclaimed an independent Republic of Cabinda, with offices in Paris.


Cabinda Province in the past, History of Cabinda Province

Portuguese explorers, missionaries and traders arrived at the mouth of the Congo River in the mid-15th century, making contact with the Manikongo, the powerful King of the Congo. The Manikongo controlled much of the region through affiliation with smaller kingdoms, such as the Kingdoms of Ngoyo, Loango and Kakongo in present-day Cabinda.

Cabinda Province in the past, History of Cabinda Province

Over the years, the Portuguese, Dutch, and English established trading posts, logging camps and small palm oil processing factories in Cabinda. Trade continued and the European presence grew, resulting in conflicts between the rival colonial powers.

Portugal first claimed sovereignty over Cabinda in the February 1885 Treaty of Simulanbuco, which gave Cabinda the status of a protectorate of the Portuguese Crown under the request of "the princes and governors of Cabinda". This is often the basis upon which the legal and historical arguments in defence of self-determination of modern-day Cabinda are constructed. Article 1, for example, states, "the princes and chiefs and their successors declare, voluntarily, their recognition of Portuguese sovereignty, placing under the protectorate of this nation all the territories by them governed" [sic]. Article 2, which is often used in separatist arguments, goes even further: "Portugal is obliged to maintain the integrity of the territories placed under its protection". The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC-R) argues that the above-mentioned treaty was signed between the emissaries of the Portuguese Crown and the princes and notables of Cabinda, then called Portuguese Congo, giving rise to not one, but three protectorates: Cacongo, Loango, and Ngoio.

Through the Treaty of Simulambuco in 1885 between the kings of Portugal and Cabindas princes, a Portuguese protectorate was decreed, reserving rights to the local princes and independent of Angola. Cabinda once had the Congo River as the only natural boundary with Angola, but in 1885, the Conference of Berlin extended the Congo Free States territory along the Congo River to the rivers mouth at the sea.

By the mid-1920s, the borders of Angola had been finally established in negotiations with the neighbouring colonial powers and from then on, Cabinda was treated as part of this colony. The Portuguese constitution of 1933 distinguished between the colony of Angola and the protectorate of Cabinda but in 1956 the administration of Cabinda was transferred to the governor general of Angola. The legal distinction of Cabindas status from that of Angola was also expressed in the Portuguese constitution of 1971. Yet, when Angola was declared an "overseas province" (Província Ultramarina) within the empire of Portugal in 1951 (in 1972 the name was changed into "State of Angola"), Cabinda was treated as an ordinary district of Angola.

Under Portuguese rule, Cabinda developed as an important agricultural and forestry centre, and in 1967 it discovered huge offshore oil fields. Oil, timber, and cocoa were its main exports by then. The town of Cabinda, the capital of the territory was a Portuguese administrative and services centre with a port and airfield. The beaches of Cabinda were popular among the Portuguese Angolans.


Consisting largely of tropical forest, Cabinda produces hardwoods, coffee, cocoa, crude rubber and palm oil. The product for which it is best known, however, is its oil. Conservative estimates are that Cabinda accounts for close to 60% of Angola’s oil production, estimated at approximately 900,000 barrels per day (140,000 m3/d), and it is estimated that oil exports from the province are worth the equivalent of US$100,000 per annum for every Cabindan. Yet, it remains one of the poorest provinces in Angola. An agreement in 1996 between the national and provincial governments stipulated that 10% of Cabinda’s taxes on oil revenues should be given back to the province, but Cabindans often feel that these revenues are not benefiting the population as a whole, largely because of corruption. The private sector, particularly the oil industry, has both affected and been affected by the secessionist conflict. During the early days of Cabindas struggle, the oil companies were perceived to be sympathetic to, if not supportive of, Cabinda’s self-determination cause. The strategy used by the separatists to gain international attention, was most evident in 1999 and 2000. During 1999, FLEC-R kidnapped four foreign workers (two Portuguese and two French citizens), but released them after several months, having failed to attract the attention of the international community. FLEC-FAC also increased its activities during 2000 with the more widely publicized kidnapping of three Portuguese workers employed by a construction company, while FLEC-R kidnapped another five Portuguese civilians. These hostages were not freed until June 2001, following the diplomatic intervention of the governments of Gabon and Congo Brazzaville.


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