Cabinda history and current international legal status

The Republic of Kabinda (also known as Cabinda) is the de facto government of Cabinda. It is the successor state to the Portuguese Protectorate known as the Portuguese Congo, established under the 1885 Treaty of Simulambuco. Cabinda was designated the 39th independent African state by the former OAU (Organization of African Unity).

The Angolan MPLA (Marxist Peoples Liberation Army) invaded Cabinda in 1975 as the Portuguese withdrew and pushed the Front for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda (FLEC) into the countryside. The Cabinda de facto government has maintained itself against Angola inside Cabinda continually since 1975.

The head of the government of Cabinda is Dr. Joel Batila, who holds the position of Premier in conjunction with the legislative body, known as the Nkoto Likanda. The president of the Republic Cabinda is Aphonse Massanga, who is also the Chairman of the Front for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda (FLEC).

The Republic of Kabinda is a unity government whose members include the FLEC political party. The constitutional republic is based in exile in Europe, and FLEC has civil and military bases of operation inside Cabinda and in Pointe Noire, Republic of the Congo. All operate under the common name FLEC.

International Law

A de facto government requires no diplomatic recognition to conduct itself under International Law. Both the United States and international courts have repeatedly accorded legal standing to de facto governments. De facto governments may conduct foreign relations with sovereign states which have not extended de jure recognition to them. Section 107 of the Restatement (Second) of Foreign Relations Law of the United States [1965] states that: “An entity not recognized as a state but meeting the requirements for recognition specified in § 100 [of controlling a territory and population, and engaging in foreign relations], or an entity recognized as a state whose regime is not recognized as its government, has the rights of a state under international law in relation to a non-recognizing state…” See also Article 74 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which states that “The severance or absence of diplomatic or consular relations between two or more States does not prevent the conclusion of treaties between those States.”

Cabinda is a member of the OEAS (Organization of Emerging African States) along with other non-UN members like Biafra, Southern Cameroons and UMMOA. Cabinda maintains an informal working relationship with the Republic of Congo, the European Parliament, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Cabinda is currently in diplomatic negotiations with a small European state regarding recognition, and maintains close bilateral relations with other African exile governments.

Cabinda explicitly does not recognize the existing ownership of onshore oil and mineral rights. The companies involved here have been repeatedly warned that FLEC vigorously opposes operations in those regions, and that the security of Angolan contractors cannot be guaranteed.

African Union

Cabinda and FLEC have mounted a legal challenge through the African Union Court in Banjul, Gambia challenging the control of these onshore blocks in Case No. 328/06, which is pending on the merits. The African Commission in December 2011 took complete jurisdiction over the matter after deliberating for five years, and has requested evidence be submitted for a decision on the merits. FLEC is requesting the African Union appoint a Special Rapporteur to take charge of the matter of onshore oil and mineral assets in Cabinda. A favorable outcome is expected as Angola has boycotted the proceedings to date. The very fact the African Union has afforded recognition to FLEC’s claims is a major legal victory.

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