Defense and security expert Luís Brás Bernardino believes the Cabinda conflict is “a predominantly African problem” and that Portugal should not be involved, as it would be difficult to maintain neutrality. It is worth asking : since when was neutrality essential, important or even something to consider for Portugal ?
The territory of Cabinda, annexed by Angola and transformed into its province (as Indonesia did in relation to East Timor), is an enclave bounded by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Atlantic Ocean, it is the theater of an armed conflict led by the independence movement FLEC-FAC, which in recent weeks has reported several clashes with Angolan forces in border areas and called for international mediation to find a peaceful solution.
The separatists claim, rightly, that the enclave was a Portuguese protectorate, as established in the Treaty of Simulambuco, signed in 1885, and was not an integral part of Angolan territory.
Speaking to Lusa, the professor and researcher at the Center for International Studies of ISCTE – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa said that ”Portugal has been clearly linked to this problem from the beginning”, but believes that it is difficult to maintain what is sought for a third party who is neutrality in the process.
But since when has Portugal been a third ? Portugal is, since 1975, the one and only interested party. It’s a yes.
”It would not be easy, nor desirable, to intervene as a mediator for a dialogue in which you are ultimately too compromised by your historical link with Cabinda and Angola,” underlines Lieutenant-Colonel Luís Brás Bernardino, with published works on the issue of defense and security in Angola and is also a member of the Political Observatory.
The academic maintains that for the moment “it is an essentially African problem” and that it would be an organization like the African Union, the most positional mediator and the best able to intervene, if such was the solution adopted, as understood by FLEC.
“I very much consider the issue of land and sea borders in Africa as an essentially African problem and that necessarily requires an African resolution,” he said.
He also underlined that “the incidents are not new“, and that the action of the FLEC, which wants to make the territory autonomous, goes in the direction of placing the question of Cabinda in an orbit not only Angolan, but regional.
“These actions which are carried out have this objective, to destabilize and give more visibility and visibility to the question of Cabinda and as quickly as possible to move to a regional and international dimension“, he suggested.
The internal dispute “led to politico-diplomatic management on the part of Angola, with more or less camouflaged agreements, in order to restore a little calm in the region and not to evolve towards the regional and international level” , he added.
While the tensions are not new, Luís Bernardino admits that they may somehow escalate and create regional tensions with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Congo, not only because of the proximity borders, but because many people who live in Cabinda have family and relations with these countries.
However, Angola will try “at all costs” to ensure that this conflict does not extend beyond its borders.
”This is an internal problem for Angola. Obviously the FLEC, who are on the other side, want regional mediation or that in a way it can be seen as an international dispute.”
As for Angola, it will hardly admit an international mediation which ”does not interest it at all ” because this would be to admit that the conflict exists and that it would worsen towards an international sphere, estimated the expert, comparing the case to what is happening with Spain and the Catalonia dispute, where Spain is also not interested in international mediation.
This week, a leader of the main Angolan opposition party, UNITA, said it was “sheer folly” for the Angolan government to deny the existence of the conflict in Cabinda.
“It makes no sense to call this an incident, this is not an incident, there is a military conflict going on in Cabinda,” UNITA shadow government deputy prime minister Raul Danda said. also criticizing the role of Portugal in this process, which faces “with a lot of pain and sadness“.
From East Timor to… Cabinda
On August 30, 1999, the referendum was held in East Timor. The result of this referendum was a natural and resounding response that the Timorese gave to Indonesia and the international community : yes, they wanted to be free, independent, away from identity and submission to executioners, executioners and Indonesian assassins. Cabinda is still waiting for a referendum so that its people can say what they want.
Freed from the criminal regime of Suharto – a general who, in order to impose himself in the country, had already murdered tens of thousands of his compatriots over the years inherited from Dutch colonialism over the years.
The unequivocal response of the Timorese to the referendum was over 78% in favor of the independence of East Timor, in favor of the liberation of Timor Lorosae from the yoke of the invaders.
It was then that pro-Indonesian militias reacted criminally, with violence that claimed the lives of more than 1,400 people, according to official figures (of course, there were more). It was a terror coordinated by the Indonesian army and police. Another crime against the Timorese that has gone unpunished.
During this period of indiscriminate killings, after learning of the results of the referendum, the terror was documented by the international press which visited East Timor. It was remarkable, even traumatic, the helplessness, the anguish and the revolt, the sadness, of those who saw everywhere in the world such images of savagery of pro-Indonesian forces in complicity with generals, other officers. high-ranking military personnel and the various police forces of the Suharto regime. Entities who escaped their crimes with impunity, as well as most of the murderers filmed and photographed, mutilating and murdering Timorese simply because they wanted and wanted to be free in their homeland, East Timor.
Today, East Timor is free, independent and democratic. From 1999 until today, all Timorese have done a lot. After being left with a country completely destroyed, burnt down by the criminals of Indonesia, behold, a young nation rises, which in a small half-island is in many ways a positive example for the world, with its inhabitants as protagonists.
It is evident that much remains to be done to improve the daily life of the Timorese. There is an urgent need to fight against corruption, economic crime, the rampant and unjustified enrichment of certain elites which are one of the main causes of food, infrastructure and health needs, among others, which affect about half of the population. Timorese.
Because as long as there is life, there is hope, we must hope for the best for the future of East Timor. The best is to overcome unemployment and many of the current difficulties facing the population, more than half of its population. Maybe 800,000 in a population of about 1.3 million.
And a referendum in Cabinda ?
On April 28, 2011, SIC – Notícias (Portugal) published – like many other media – the following text :
“Portugal’s support for a referendum on the future of the Angolan enclave of Cabinda is very important, even so that this issue is not overlooked,” says journalist Orlando Castro.
The journalist addressed the issue of the Cabinda enclave, in the book ”Cabinda, Ontem Protectorado, Hoje Colónia, Amanhã Nação ”, which will be released on Friday in Lisbon and on May 5 in Porto.
“The objective (of the book) is, in fact, to warn of the need for the inhabitants of Cabinda to be heard on what they want for the future of their land,” he told Agência Lusa Orlando Castro.
Throughout the work, the author declares to have had recourse to the treaties concluded between Cabinda and Portugal before April 25, namely that of Simulambuco, signed in 1885 and which placed Cabinda under Portuguese protectorate.
”The aim of the book is also to help ensure that the issue of Cabinda does not fall into oblivion and that, especially in Portugal, but also in Angola, understand that Cabinda is not, at least in my opinion. opinion, a province of Angola, ” said the journalist.
The book also analyzes, according to the author, ”what happened at the time of the independence of Angola (1975), in which Portugal did not recognize the movement, namely the FLEC (Front for the Liberation of the State / Enclave of Cabinda), who fought for Cabinda for this protectorate status to be recognized ”.
“(The book) brings a critical look at the main Portuguese and Angolan figures who left the subject in the background, trying to echo the agreements that were in force at the time (of Angolan independence) “, did he declare.
According to Orlando Castro, Portugal, through the Alvor accords (signed in 1975), recognized the independence of Angola and violated international agreements, depriving the people of Cabinda of the right to be considered as a territory different from Angola.
”Portugal, as a former colonial power , in the case of Angola, and which signed the protectorate agreements, in the case of Cabinda, must not forget that the rights of the people of Cabinda do not prescribe and should do for Cabinda what it did for East Timor-Est,” he added.
According to Orlando Castro, “Portugal should fight diplomatically and politically so that there is a referendum in Cabinda, in which the people can choose their future, possibly continuing as a province of Angola, an autonomous region or an independent country” .
Note : Orlando Castro is our assistant manager.
Source : Folha8 with Lusa and “Timor Agora”