The Bakongo people of Central Africa make up around 14 per cent of Angola's population (data: CIA World Factbook, 2006, edition) and the preponderance of the 300,000 people of the northern Angolan province of Cabinda (data: Between War and Peace in Cabinda, HRW, 2004, "retrieved 25 July 2007,".) The Cabinda exclave is separated from the rest of Angola by the sliver of the Democratic Republic of Congo that runs to the Atlantic.

Historical context

In 1961 Bakongo coffee estate workers created the largest colonial uprising in any part of tropical Africa during the entire colonial period. In multi-ethnic Luanda, a place of ‘savage capitalism', Bakongo men and especially women found success in trade, virtually all of which is unregulated, and hugely dependent on untaxed and pilfered merchandise. Other Angolans have resented this, and during the war scapegoated Bakongo as ‘Zairians', implying both illegitimate citizenship and unfairly gained wealth. In January 1993 armed civilians killed over sixty Bakongo in Luanda marketplaces. Police and judicial protection of Bakongo people was at best half-hearted. A Bakongo-based movement, Movimento para Auto-Determinação de Bakongo (MAKO), with an active armed wing, emerged in the early 1990s, advocating an independent Bakongo federation including Cabinda. It has since dissolved, and the main separatist militants are now organized under the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) and its various splinter factions.

Cabinda comprises only 0.5 per cent of Angola's territory and about 1.5 per cent of its population, but it accounts for about 60 per cent of the country's oil output. Ordinary Cabindans have not benefited more from this wealth than other Angolans. Despite efforts by both the MPLA and UNITA to recruit them into privileged ranks, aspiring Cabindan politicians set up various separatist movements down through the years, most with tacit backing from the neighbouring Republic of Congo and Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), and from French military and multinational oil interests. These groupings tended to split up and regroup, some in alliances of convenience with either the MPLA or UNITA, neither of which wished to see an independent Cabinda. With the end of Angola's civil war in 2002, fighting in Cabinda between separatists and the Angolan army intensified, resulting in widespread human rights abuses against Cabindans.

Current issues

From March 2006, an umbrella organisation, the Cabinda Forum for Dialogue (FDC), entered into discussions with the government. In July 2006, the government banned one element of the FDC: Cabinda's only human rights organisation, Mpalabanda. In August one Cabindan rebel leader signed a separate peace with the government that was disavowed by other Cabindan factions. The head of Mpalabanda was arrested in September 2006 and released one month later pending trial for ‘instigating, inciting and condoning crimes against the security of the state'. Chevron, the largest oil operator in Cabinda, conceals the amount of their payments to the Angolan government. NGOs criticize the oil giant for contributing to graft that only fuels resentment among the impoverished Cabindan population.


Minorities and indigenous peoples in
< Angola