PARIS (FRANCE) / YAOUNDE (CAMEROON) / AMSTERDAM (NETHERLANDS) / WASHINGTON (US) – International organisations support the coalition of Chadian civil society groups who have called for a national day of mourning on October 10, the date of the official inauguration of the publicly financed Chad Cameroon Oil Pipeline.
The call, which is supported by Human Rights and women’s organisations, unions and NGOs, warns that Chadian oil revenues ‘will only be another weapon in the hands of a plundering oligarchy used to oppress the Chadian people.’ The groups denounce the insecurity and impunity which prevail in the country and which ‘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 dollar Chad Cameroon oil project, which is managed by a consortium of Exxon, Chevron and Petronas, represents the biggest private investment in Africa today. In June 2000, the World Bank decided to co-finance the project against the wishes of Chadian, Cameroonian and international organisations. A month later, the European Investment Bank (EIB) followed with an additional loan of 144 million Euro.
A mechanism has been put in place that is supposed to ensure the transparent management of oil revenues, but continued corruption and lack of capacity in the Chadian government has cast doubt 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, notorious for its corruption and human rights abuses, used the first $4.5 million of the signing bonus that 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,” says Breitkopf.
Magda Stoczkiewicz, leading the EIB campaign for Friends of the Earth International and CEE Bankwatch Network adds: “The EIB loan was given despite negative advice from the European Parliament, putting EU money into a highly controversial project. The Chad-Cameroon pipeline example puts into question the usefulness of channelling EU aid to Africa via the EIB.”
According to a network of Chadian NGOs active on issues related to the oil sector, the Commission Permanente Pétrole de N’djaména (CPP), the project has already caused considerable harm in the oil producing area and the measures promised by the World Bank to protect the environment and the population have not been implemented to their satisfaction. In a press conference in N’djaména, CPPN representatives criticized, among other things, the increased food insecurity and social tensions in the oil- producing region, due to the massive migration induced by the project. During the construction of the pipeline, prostitution developed on a large scale, increasing the spread of AIDS. “In Cameroon, the construction of the pipeline has not brought benefits to the population. Instead, it has caused destruction of the environment and of important resources such as fisheries.” says Samuel Nguiffo, director of the Center for Environment and Development in Cameroon, and adds: “October 10 will be a public celebration of the broken promises of the pipeline construction in Chad and Cameroon, and of human and worker’s rights abuses. The World Bank should not be proud. We are joining our neighbours in Chad in the day of mourning, because we ourselves have no reason to celebrate this day.”
Meanwhile, the oil companies are exploring other oil-rich areas in Chad and Cameroon and any additional oil will use the existing pipeline. New exploration is occurring without informing the Chadian public, thereby ignoring the World Bank and EIB loan agreements. As a condition of its financial support, the World Bank required that any oil to be transported through the pipeline be developed in compliance with the standards set for the Doba project. International organisations have expressed their support for Chadian groups, who have declared, ‘The ceremony of October 10 has for us no meaning, it is a non-event.’
According to Korinna Horta, a scientist with Environmental Defense in Washington: “A regional development plan was promised to mitigate the negative impacts of the project and ensure development benefits for the people most directly affected, yet to date no such plan has been made public or thethe regional structures put in place to administer the promised oil funds”.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Susanne Breitkopf, Friends of the Earth, Paris tel. +33 1 48513222 mobile +33 6 77775868
Samuel Nguiffo, CED, Yaoundé: tel. +237 222 38 57
Magda Stoczkiewicz, CEE Bankwatch, Amsterdam: +31 20 622 13 69 mobile +31 652 41 03 23
Korinna Horta, Environmental Defense, Washington – Lisbon: +351963920759