Chadians “mourn” while World Bank and oil companies celebrate pipeline

8 October 2003

The coalition of Human Rights Associations in Chad has called for a national day of mourning on October 10, the date of the official inauguration of the Chad Cameroon Oil Pipeline. The call, supported by women’s organisations, labour unions and NGOs, claims that Chadian oil revenues “will only be another weapon in the hands of a plundering oligarchy to oppress the Chadian people.” The groups denounce the continuing insecurity in the country, which they say will only increase with the exploitation of oil. On September 12, the government prohibited a peaceful march organised by human rights groups.

The $3.7 billion Chad Cameroon oil project managed by a consortium composed of Exxon, Chevron and Petronas, is the biggest current private investment in Africa. In 2000 the World Bank approved the project despite opposition from Chadian, Cameroonian and international organisations, claiming it would generate important revenues for Chad to support poverty reduction. A mechanism was set up to ensure the transparent management of oil revenues, but continued corruption and lack of capacity in the Chadian government have cast major doubts on its effectiveness.

“The World Bank’s assessment of the situation in Chad is based on unrealistic assumptions”, says Susanne Breitkopf, Africa Campaigner at Friends of the Earth France. “While World Bank officials organise satellite conferences for the international press, Chadian citizens are literally left in the dark, without means to communicate their grievances.” The Chadian government, known for its appalling corruption and human rights record, used the first $4.5 million of the signing ‘bonus’ it received from the oil companies to purchase arms. “It is cynical for the World Bank to claim that the situation has changed. In its own internal project report to the executive directors of August 2003, the Bank found new financial ‘misreportings’ by the Chadian authorities,” adds Breitkopf.

Observe the day of mourning to say to the authorities that you have suffered too much.

According to the Commission Permanente Pétrole de N’djaména (CPPN), a Chadian NGO network on oil-related issues, the project has already caused considerable harm in the oil producing area and measures promised by the World Bank to protect the environment and the population have not been adequately implemented. Among other consequences CPPN representatives denounce increased food insecurity and social tensions in the oil-producing region, due to the massive migration induced by the project. Prostitution developed on a large scale during construction of the pipeline, increasing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Meanwhile, the oil companies are reported to be clandestinely exploring other oil-rich areas in Chad that are expected to feed into the pipeline, thereby ignoring clauses in the World Bank loan agreements. As a condition of its financial support, the Bank required that any oil to be transported through the pipeline be developed in compliance with the standards set for the Doba project.

Chadian groups have said “the ceremony of October 10th has for us no meaning, it is a non-event. Observe the day of mourning to say to the authorities that you have suffered too much, and that the time has come for them to take the responsibility to guarantee your security, and that the oil revenues should not exacerbate your already-precarious situation.”