New Internationalist


Issue 361

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Oil pipelines / DREAMS

Pipelines bring jobs and development to the countries they cross, which in turn bring new-found economic prosperity. Those affected by the minimal disruption are amply compensated. Yeah, right. in their dreams. Here's how some of the PR-hype used to justify Africa's newly completed Chad-Cameroon pipeline is translating in reality...
[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]
Route: 1,070 kilometres underground from 300 oil wells in the Doba Basin in southern Chad, Africa to Kribi on Cameroon's Atlantic Coast.

Corporate owners:
ExxonMobil (US – 40%);
Petronas (Malaysia – 35%);
ChevronTexaco (US – 25%).
Cost of building: $2.2 billion.

Financiers: The corporate owners - 81%; the World Bank Group and its affiliate, the International Finance Corporation - nearly 6%. Export-credit agencies and commercial banks are providing the balance.

Volume of oil transported: Up to 225,000 barrels per day from estimated reserves of 917 million barrels.

‘Economy transformed!’
'Out of the estimated profits of $8 billion, Cameroon will receive 7%, Chad 22% and the [oil corporations] consortium 71%. The project's economic benefits are all the more reduced inCameroon as the construction phase was tax free.'
London-based NGO, the Bretton Woods Project.

‘Poverty eradicated!’
'Critics fear that little of the income will reach thepoorest populations [and that] much will be lostthrough incompetence and corruption. The concern that oil money will be used to purchase weapons to strengthen the [Chad] Government's force against rebel opposition movements proved valid in November 2000, when the Government used $4.5 million of a $25-million oil contract bonus to purchase weapons from Taiwan. The Presidentjustified this action by stating that "development must be protected".'
JP Martin, ‘Chad Cameroon Oil Pipeline Project: a Study Tool andCase Study’,

‘Jobs provided!’
'Most jobs provided to the local population were limited to unskilled positions for a short period, with the better-paying positions reserved for workers from the cities or even abroad. Permanent employment positions after thecompletion of the construction phase are said tobe about 350 in Chad and negligible in Cameroon.'
Center for Environment and Development/Friends of the EarthCameroon, Friends of the Earth International and Milieudefensie.

‘The people want it!’
'Serious disputes were recorded on the amounts of compensation. In several villages, springs were destroyed, thereby depriving people of access todrinking water. Rural people have had to grapplewith severe food insecurity and an outbreak of health problems, especially HIV.'
London-based NGO, the Bretton Woods Project

‘A better deal for indigenous people!’
'During the construction of the pipeline, small game fled deeper into the bush, communal fruit trees were cut down, and medicinal plants were lost. The oil consortium sent representatives several times and promised new housing as compensation. "They have been making promises for two years. It's like a tree that dies and falls in the forest. You can wait and wait, but it will never rise."'
Edited extract of Los Angeles Times writer Ken Silverstein's June 2003 report ofhis conversation with the chief of the Cameroon village of Maboula - one of 60villages scattered on or about the pipeline where 1,000 Bakola 'Pygmies' live.


Further reading:
Friends of the Earth Cameroon et al Broken Promises: The Chad-Cameroon Oil and Pipeline Project (2001) and Traversing People's Lives (2002), both of which can be obtained at

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This article was originally published in issue 361

New Internationalist Magazine issue 361
Issue 361

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