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Frente de Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda (Cabinda, Angola) (FLEC)

(Liberation Front of the Enclave of Cabinda)

Last modified: 2021-01-02 by bruce berry
Keywords: cabinda | flec |
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Cabinda - historical and political background

The historical and political background to the enclave of Cabinda is provided here.

Liberation Front of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) - introduction

Frente de Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda - FLEC (Liberation Front of the Enclave of Cabinda) was created in 1963 as a coalition of three movements - MLEC (Liberation Movement of the Enclave of Cabinda), CAUNC (Action Committee of National Cabindese Union) and ALLIAMA (National Alliance of the Mayombe).  Mayombe is a mountain between Cabinda and the Republic of the Congo).
Joan-Frances Blanc, 04 May 1998

The Political Handbook of the World (1997) has the following entry for Cabinda:
Since the early 1960s a number of groups have been active in the oil-rich Cabinda enclave under the banner of Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda Enclave (Frente de Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda - FLEC).  The original FLEC was founded in August 1963 by Luis Ranque Franque who, encouraged by Portuguese authorities to continue separatist activities, refused to join other Angolan independence movements. In 1974 the Front's attempts to gain military control of the enclave were rebuffed by the MPLA and in 1975 the movement broke into three factions:

  • FLEC - Ranque Franque
  • FLEC - N'Zita, led by Henrique Tiaho N'Zita
  • FLEC - Lubota, led by Francisco Xavier Lubota
In November 1977 a splinter group styling itself the Military Command for the Liberation of Cabinda was organized, while in June 1979 the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Cabinda established another splinter, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Cabinda (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Cabinda - MPLC). In the 1980s FLEC - UNITA (or UNIFLEC) was reported to be operating in Cabinda with South African assistance, however the group's activities ceased following withdrawal of Pretoria's aid. In the early 1990s two other groups, the National Union for the Liberation of Cabinda (União Nacional de Libertação de Cabinda - UNLC), led by Lumingu Luis Gimby, and the Communist Committee of Cabinda (Comité Communista de Cabinda - CCC), led by Kaya Mohamed Yay, were linked to separatist activities.

Anxious to create ties to the economically important region, both the government and UNITA have named Cabindans to leadership positions in their parties. Nevertheless, in July 1991 a joint MPLA-PT/UNITA offensive was launched in Cabinda to eradicate the terrorists. Meanwhile, although past attempts to unify the numerous FLEC factions had proven short-lived, it was reported that four of the identifiable groups (FLEC-Lubota, the UNLC, CCC, and FLEC - Renovada) were attempting to form a united front, with FLEC - N'Zita reportedly refusing to participate.

In mid-1992 increased incidents of FLEC initiated violence were reported in the province, with the situation further deteriorating during the run-up to the September 1992 elections. In August FLEC officials called for a boycott of the balloting. Subsequently, only 19% of the eligible voters registered, with one observer describing the low turnout as a "referendum on independence". In December FLEC activists, citing the likelihood of further unrest, urged São Tomé and Principe expatriates to depart and in January 1993 Angolan officials charged "Congolese politicians" with supplying arms to the separatists.

In mid-May 1993 FLEC responded to the US recognition of Luanda by declaring that it did not extend to Cabinda and warning that "all those people with companies in Cabinda must choose between supporting the extermination of the Cabindan people or leaving the territory." Following UNITA's capture of Soyo in northwestern Angola in late May, the government, fearing a pact between the separatists and rebels, was reported to be attempting to form an alliance with a FLEC-Renovada opponent, the FLEC-Armed Forces of Cabinda (Forças Armadas do Cabinda - FLEC-FAC). However, after a new guerilla offensive was launched in Cabinda from mid-1995, government and FLEC-Renovada representatives meeting in Windhoek, Namibia, in April 1996 concluded a ceasefire agreement that was thought likely to be observed by other FLEC-factions.

FLEC - 1984 flag

[Angola - FLEC] image by Jarig Bakker, 06 Apr 2001 (from an image scanned by David Cohen, 04 Apr 2001 from the "Flags of Aspirant Peoples" chart)

To the north of Angola is the enclave of Cabinda, which is rich in oil and therefore has considerable significance both to the Angolan government and the western oil companies who exploit it. In 1963 a movement called the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) was formed to press for independence for this territory. FLEC was largely inert during the war against the Portuguese and languished afterwards, although UNITA staged some attacks against oil installations. FLEC was reformed in 1984 and began military operations against the MPLA regime in Luanda. It is currently in negotiation with the government.

FLEC has had its own factional problems and there is (or was) also an organization calling itself 'UNALEC' (presumably, the National Union for the Liberation of the Enclave in Cabinda). Whether this was a split from FLEC, a UNITA front, or merely another name for FLEC, is not clear.

Another organization is the Cabinda Democratic Front.

A flag for FLEC has been reported by "Flags of Aspirant Peoples". It is shown as being a light blue over yellow over red tricolor. In the centre is a brown circle, containing a green triangle on which there is a white star. I have little information regarding the accuracy or symbolism of this flag, although I have seen the triangle/circle device, in black and white, on FLEC literature, so I believe this part at least to be accurate.
Stuart Notholt, 10 Jan 1996

As one of the co-authors of the Flags of Aspirant Peoples Chart in 1994, I hope that it may be of interest to inform you where John Edwards and I obtained our rendition from.  It came from two different sources; the description from Vexillinfo No. 66, Page 66; and the diagram from a book called Flags of the World - 1981, Page 248 (not the Barraclough/Crampton book).  Our design was further confirmed by Mr. Jacek Skorupski of Warsaw, Poland, who kindly sent me a copy of his work, Flagi Malo Znane (Little Known Flags) dated May 1991. He had the central green triangle pointing down but everything else the same.
Ralph Bartlett (Co-Author, Flags of Aspirant Peoples Chart), 06 Apr 2001

FLEC - 1974 flag

[FLEC 1974 flag] image by Jarig Bakker, 07 Apr 2001

To put a little light into the Cabinda flag question here the sources from Flag Bulletin:
Cabinda. Flag Bulletin XVI:5, September-October 1977
Flag description:
"... three horizontal stripes of light blue over yellow over red, again with a central emblem. The new emblem consisted of a yellow disc, bordered in dark brown and slightly overlapping the top and bottom stripes. Inscribed within was a triangle of light green, apex downwards, surmounted by a white five pointed star. The diameter of the star corresponded to the yellow disc, while the green triangle slightly overlapped the brown border at the three points."
Sources given by Flag Bulletin is a publication named "Le drapeau du Cabinda (n.p.: 1974)", and especially for the flag a "Letter from the Embassy of the USA in Kinshasa, dated 16 January 1976, courtesy of Creighton Kern".
Ralf Stelter, 07 Apr 2001

FLEC - 1963 flag

[FLEC 1963 flag] image by Jarig Bakker, 04 April 2001

Initially the Frente de Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda - FLEC (Liberation Front of the Enclave of Cabinda) adopted a horizontal tricolour of blue-yellow-red.
Joan-Frances Blanc, 04 May 1998

It appears that by 1996 FLEC - Renovada and FLEC - FAC were most prominent. The FLEC-Renovada flag has white, green, yellow, black and white stripes with a red circle in the centre. The FLEC - FAC flag is the red, yellow blue tricolour, but it is more difficult to assign the other posted flags to Cabindan groups. For the time being it seems to me that there is not one flag which represents the whole of Cabinda... but I may be completely wrong here. It is difficult to differentiate between FLEC and FLEC, where every Cabindan knows that the E in the first stands for "Enclave", and in the second for "Estado"...
Jarig Bakker, 05 Apr 2001

Why would Portugal encourage a liberation movement in one of it's colonies?

The fact is that it's true. Portugal actively helped, through the political police (PIDE) and the services of military intelligence, not only Cabindan independentists, but also UNITA and the FNLA. Portugal's policy (first under António de Oliveira Salazar and later Marcelo Caetano) was to divide and rule.  It therefore assisted all movements that opposed the Soviet-supported MPLA liberation movement. Also the US and South Africa were actively involved in this anti-MPLA support, providing weapons, mercenaries and military training. After the Carnation Revolution in 1974, Portugal decided to withdraw from all its African colonies. However, the anti-MPLA support continued from both the US and South Africa, with the South African army even making several incursions into Angola during the 1970s and 1980s).  The MPLA was supported mostly by the USSR and Cuba, with the latter sending in several thousand troops in 1976. The Cuban troops were withdrawn under the Three Powers Accord in 1988, paving the way for the end of thr Angolan civil war and the independence of Namibia.

Nowadays FLEC-Renovada and FLEC-FAC seem to be the only groups in action there. However, it has been said several times to Portuguese media by ordinary people in the enclave that "the FLEC isn't the men in the bush - the FLEC is all of us". So there's a major support not only for the idea of independence but also for a "FLEC" as a more or less idealized Corporation (if this word exists in English) of this idea. This is to say that I wouldn't be surprised if in the case of sudden dissolution of the current FLECs, new FLECs would arise apparently from the vacuum. Be it relative to an enclave, be it relative to a state.
Jorge Candeias, 05 Apr 2001

FLEC - variant

[Angola - F.L.E.C.] image by Jorge Candeias, 09 Aug 1997 (re-giffed by Antonio Martins, 13 Feb 1999)

I have a photograph taken from an article in a Portuguese magazine of a member of the FLEC guerilla group showing a flag to the photographer. The flag is clearly visible and held correctly, since in the same article was published the coat of arms of the so-called "Republic of Cabinda" and it is in the same position as the one that can be seen on the flag. The flag is a horizontal tricolor of red, yellow, dark blue. In the center there is a black circle within the yellow strip. Inside the circle there is a green triangle and an inverted white 5-pointed star superimposed on the triangle. Both the triangle and the star touch the circle.
Jorge Candeias, 09 Aug 1997

Yesterday I saw on TV a man unfolding a Cabinda flag. It was red-yellow-blue, horizontal with the old symbol in the center. Exactly as the flag I reported in 1997, only with a lighter shade of blue and a more "standard" proportion, seemingly 2:3. And then held it as the other man in the photo I reported in 1997 did, obviously to show it to the camera.
Jorge Candeias, 14 Mar 2001

In an interview by telephone on Portuguese Television, a member representing one of the FLECs (I think the FAC but I'm not sure) in Cabinda stated clearly "Frente de Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda". The fact that the black, yellow and blue flag is not widely seen is that within Cabinda most people fly one of the two flags of the liberation movements and talk about "Enclave" and not "Estado" .  There are also conflicting reports both within and outside Cabinda about FLEC (or it's factions) which leads me to the assumption that even within the movement there are major divisions and that nothing can be confirmed based on just one interview by "representative".

This "enclave" and not "estado" dispute can also be connected with a change in strategy by the independentists. They are trying to involve Portugal in their dispute with Angola, arguing that Cabinda isn't a part of Angola but is still a Portuguese protectorate since the Treaty of Simulambuco has not been revoked. Therefore, they say, the Angolan army should withdraw from Cabinda and the Portuguese presence should be reinstated. Negotiations can thend begin with the Portuguese government in order to achieve full independence, delayed for a couple of years until the Angolans "get comfortable" with the situation.  To accomplish that they kidnap Portuguese citizens.
FAC doesn't change: "Forças Armadas de Cabinda" - Cabinda Armed Forces.
Jorge Candeias, 05 Apr 2001

Photos of the FLEC flag

[Photo of FLEC flag]   [Jorge's FLEC flag] images sent by Jaume Ollé and Jorge Candeias, 05 Apr 2001,

Photographic evidence show that the red is in upper part and that Jorge Candeias is absolutely correct. Because star in the flag was upside down it was assumed that flag was seen upside down but now we know that this is incorrect. The Flag Bulletin reported the flag upside down.
Jaume Ollé, 05 Apr 2001

The only question remaining is one asked a number of times already - did some other factions ever use a blue/yellow/red flag and/or a Coat of Arms with an upright star?  The only citation of primary evidence I am aware of on that question is Stuart Notholt's 1996 report, where he referred to a flag having the Coat of Arms with an "upright" star and said he had seen that design on FLEC literature.
Ned Smith, 6 Apr 2001

On a photo with flags of  the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) the FLEC flag is shown as reported by Jorge Candeias and Jaume Ollé.
Jens Pattke and Ned Smith, 15 Aug 2002