AS OF last year the Angolan government claimed that the war in Cabinda is over.

AS OF last year the Angolan government claimed that the war in Cabinda is over.

However, sporadic attacks on government forces and expatriate workers have continued. A peace deal was signed in 2006 between Angola's government and the rebels under Bento Bembe's leadership, but another Flec (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda) faction has refused to sign on.

Illegal detention and torture against suspected separatists continued as of late last year, when Flec claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a Chinese worker and the killing of Angolan soldiers. Antonio Bento Bembe, who once led Flec, is now a minister without portfolio tasked with human rights.

Human Rights Watch said in a report released in June last year that there was a disturbing pattern of human rights violations by the Angolan armed forces and state intelligence officials. Between September 2007 and March 2009, at least 38 people were arbitrarily arrested by the military in Cabinda and accused of state security crimes.

Most were subjected to lengthy incommunicado detention, torture, and cruel or inhumane treatment in military custody and were denied due process rights. Many of those detained were residents of villages in the interior of Cabinda who were arrested during military raids that followed armed attacks attributed to Flec.

Successive attempts over a quarter of a century to end a "secessionist" conflict in Angola's Cabinda enclave have yet to bear fruit.

Political tensions were high in some areas of Cabinda as separatist groups demand a greater share of oil revenue for the province's population. The separatist groups often kidnapped foreign nationals in an attempt to draw attention to their independence claims.

Flec, the ongoing low-level insurgency group, active in Cabinda province, has a history of threatening foreign nationals with kidnapping.

Often dubbed "Angola's forgotten war", the decades-long conflict in the oil-rich province of 300000 people took a new turn with a government offensive in October 2002 in the Buco-Zau military region in northern Cabinda.

The armed secessionist movements, with a combined estimated force of no more than 2000 troops, are no match for the battle-hardened Angolan Armed Forces (FAA - a Portuguese acronym), who in 2002 had finally forced Angola's Unita rebel movement to sue for peace after three decades of war in the country.

The Angolan economy is highly dependent on its oil sector, which accounts for about half of the country's gross domestic product and more than 90percent of export revenues.

Cabinda faces a situation similar to the Niger Delta states in Nigeria. Cabinda produces more than half of Angola's oil and accounts for nearly all of its foreign exchange earnings.

The province receives about 10percent of the taxes paid by ChevronTexaco and its partners operating offshore Cabinda.

Situated in Central Africa between Zaire and Congo, Cabinda stretches along the Atlantic coast and covers an area of about 10000km².

A strip of Zairian territory 60km in width divides Angola from Cabinda.

The population of Cabinda, which stands at about 300000 indigenous people, is comparable in numbers to that of Luxemburg (300000), of the Gambia and of Equatorial Guinea. Although out of this number only one third live in the actual territory of Cabinda.

The other two thirds inhabit the surroundings in a generally stable state on Congolese and Zairian territory.

Cabindês is the national language of Cabinda. However, a large number of Cabinda citizens speak French.

The Cabindans, at least for the literate among them, are 90percent French speaking and only 10percent speak Portuguese. The approved commercial languages are German and French.

Unlike most African countries where the majority are animists, the majority of Cabinda people are Christians.

First visited by the Portuguese in the late 15th century, Cabinda was composed of three kingdoms: Loango, Kakongo and N'Goyo.

When the Portuguese arrived to the estuary of the Congo in 1482, they found themselves in contact with one of the largest states in Africa south of the Sahara, and with one of the very few large states situated anywhere near the coastline.

This was the Kingdom of the Bakongo, a Bantu nation whose king, the Man-i-kongo, had his capital at Mbanzakongo, the modern Sao Salvador. - Sapa-AFP