YAOUNDE (CAMEROON) – Presidents Paul Biya of Cameroon and Idriss Deby of Chad will inaugurate the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline today in Kribi. This ceremony marks the official kick-off of the exploitation phase of Chad oil by Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Petronas multinationals.
Presented as a model in terms of development and poverty alleviation, the greatest development project ever implemented in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Chad-Cameroon pipeline has in effect not been able to improve the living standards of the local populations of the countries concerned.
Throughout the various stages of the project – from preparation to exploitation through construction – the Centre for the Environment and Development (CED), the Cameroon affiliate of Friends of the Earth, has continuously denounced the numerous project deficiencies. Contrary to the official line, CED made sure to disclose the problems and shortcomings of the project.
At the time when the consortium celebrates the start of oil exploitation and declares with much enthusiasm that the project has been successful both at the social and economic level, CED feels obliged to recall that there are still numerous unresolved issues.
CED wishes to recall that individual, community and regional compensations were neither totally paid nor satisfactory. Still today, several local inhabitants are still expecting their due, with unfortunately no hope of being heard at the time when oil is already exported from the Kribi terminal. The Indigenous Peoples Plan, which should have improved the situation of the Bakola-Bagyeli pygmies, was poorly drafted and its implementation remains a cause for concern.
Cases of workers’ rights abuses were recorded but not resolved and, up to date, numerous workers are still waiting for justice to be done. Most of them were underpaid, and the precarious nature of their working conditions did not contribute to their self-fulfilment. Many were roughed up, mistreated and even put to jail. Their complaints were filed before several institutions (labour inspection, judicial bodies, the World Bank inspection panel, etc.) without any final and satisfactory solution.
Environment protection is not guaranteed. The oil spill response plan remains mere theory and response mechanisms are not up to date.
Concerning the health of the local populations, the pipeline project is pregnant with as many undisclosed scandals as there is sand on the beach. Hence, it appeared that Cotco and Totco did not ensure sufficient follow-up of the project’s impact on the health of local populations. The inflow and outflow of job seekers led to prostitution and overcrowding, which contribute to the development and spread of diseases such as AIDS. Furthermore, wells and other drinking water sources along the pipeline route were polluted, therefore causing several water-borne diseases.
Project management also destabilised the local socio-economic balance, which led to major social conflicts. This can be illustrated by the precarious situation of the fishermen of the Ebome village in Kribi where the rocky fishing area was destroyed during the construction of the sea terminal, depriving the inhabitants of this locality of their livelihoods.
Consequently, CED rises up against any propagandist literature that tends to present the Chad-Cameroon pipeline project as a perfect example of success through which the World Bank can contribute to development and poverty reduction through extractive industries.
CED calls for the sense of responsibility of the project developers and recommends that the lessons of the Chad-Cameroon experience be taken into account for the execution of future projects of similar scope.
Hence, beyond the attended credit and self-satisfaction, the Chad-Cameroon pipeline project brought about more tears than smiles, therefore betraying the World Bank-supported development and poverty reduction goals.
Finally, CED regrets to note that numerous local inhabitants are as poor as before, if not poorer. Expectations were not met and many concerns remain. This is to say that at the time of inauguration, the Chad-Cameroon pipeline project will remain in the minds of Cameroonians not as a development project, but as a regular project at the exclusive service of the egoistical interests of foreign multinationals.
Belmond Tchoumba. Tel: 950 45 31 / Edith Abilogo. Tel: 952 49 05