Monday, January 12, 2009

Cabinda Update

Two and a half years ago, I wrote an article about the potential for unrest and insurgency in Cabinda, an oil-rich exclave of Angola, to disrupt projected increases in Angolan oil production.  This week, Cabinda again made the news with a deadly attack on the visiting Togolese football (soccer) team.  What is the current situation in Cabinda, and more importantly what does this tell us about the state of oil and infrastructure targeting by insurgents?

There aren't enough data points to say anything definitive on Cabinda, but it appears that the various insurgent factions operating there have not been able to effectively leverage threats against offshore oil production to advance their cause(s).  I think there are three issues here worth discussing. 

First, as noted in the article on the recent attack, above, there appears to be in-fighting among the various rebel groups, with more than one claiming responsibility for the recent attack.  To me, this suggests that the character of the insurrection remains predominantly hierarchal, as opposed to an open-source "fuoco."  This is inhibiting the success of Cabinda's insurgents, and more importantly (see below) preventing them from effectively leveraging open-source models of targeting and tactics development.

Second, while it's unclear whether this is a chicken or egg issue, the rebel groups in Cabinda have not demonstrated the ability to learn from insurgencies around the world about the effectiveness of targeting infrastructure (especially oil export capability) to gain leverage.  If the insurgents in Cabinda could present the plausible threat of taking a significant portion of Angola's oil export capacity off-line, they would have a very powerful bargaining chip toward increased autonomy and profit sharing.

Third, rebel groups in Cabinda have not shown the ability to learn from global insurgencies (especially Nigeria) the tactical ability to effectively target offshore platforms and offshore oil production and export capabilities.  The opportunity to learn and develop a locally-appropriate tactical set is there, but requires 1) understanding the targeting methodology involved (see above) and 2) open-source (as opposed to infighting among hierarchal structures) development of this capability.

Cabinda's insurgent groups are failing ot seize this critical opportunity, and their window of opportunity to exert leverage on Angola via threats to its oil export potential will not last forever (another decade, roughly).  It's an interesting case study, in my mind, because it shows both that integration of the open-source insurgency model is not automatic, and because it shows some of the features (in-fighting among locally-powerful/influential figures) that can dampen the development of an open-source insurgency.

1 comment:

Ttoes said...

Jeff,

The fact that no comments have been made to this post in the past week should not discourage you. I enjoy, and am sure many others do, being kept up on energy related issues that no standard media considers.

Thanks for the post.