It was on October 10th 2003 that Exxon Mobil and its partners officially inaugurated the Chad-Cameroon Oil Project. The press release marking the event was positively jubilant:
Addressing inauguration attendees, Morris Foster, president of ExxonMobil Development Company, said, “It is with great pride that I am here today to celebrate this tremendous accomplishment with everyone who has been involved in the Project. I want to personally thank President Deby and President Biya for their support along with important contributions of our co-venturers, Petronas and ChevronTexaco, and the World Bank Group for their commitment to this Project.
“Today we celebrate not only what was achieved during the construction but Esso, as operator, also celebrates the manner in which it has been accomplished,” Mr. Foster added. “We maintained our long-term focus on this project over 27 years of effort and changes in the consortium, increased the known oil reserves to commercial levels and helped turn a vision in 1976 into a reality. We believe this project will help prepare a brighter future for the citizens of Chad and Cameroon, and I am proud we are part of it.”
Below is an article from IRIN (UN). The flooding in Chad and elsewhere in the region has been getting far too little coverage in the Western media. Many areas in Chad and beyond are experiencing a level of rainfall and flooding that hasn’t been seen for 50 years. Chad has suffered through several years of drought and although the rains may provide relief in some places, flooding is wreaking havoc in many parts of the country. Villages and farms have been destroyed; flooded fields are particularly worrisome in Chad where hunger is already a problem.
The tragic irony: All the oil money in the world can’t prevent torrential rain and flooding, and given the likelihood that the floods are related to global climate change, oil may be in part to blame for the situation. The question now, however, is whether the government of Chad has — or will — use its oil revenues to improve the country’s infrastructure. Improved sanitation, roads and the construction of canals and dykes are critical moving forward.
WALIA, 17 November 2010 (IRIN) – Scores of families recently displaced by flooding in the Chadian capital N’djamena face a daily struggle against local thugs, wild animals, a lack of toilets and night winds that knock down makeshift tents.
The Chad government announced in late October that it would relocate thousands of people hit by flooding when the River Chari burst its banks, but any such move will take time; in the meantime families whose homes crumbled are just getting by – new hardships adding to what were already tough living conditions in their neighbourhood of Walia.
“We are exposed to too many dangers here,” said Obed Langkal, seated with other residents of the tents and makeshift shelters set up on a stretch of land between a main road and the river. “We cannot rest comfortably at all.”
It has been quite awhile, but I’m back to work on Pipe(line) Dreams. I’ll post new video soon along with some updates and oil news.
I have produced a short film for PBS/Frontline World to mark the 10th anniversary of World Bank engagement in the Chad-Cameroon Oil Development and Pipeline Project. Cameroon: Pipeline to Prosperity? revisits the story of the “model” oil for development project. Ten years ago the oil companies and the World Bank promised that this project would break the resource curse and prove to the world that oil could be a force for good…
What has happened? Watch the film to see how Chad’s oil has impacted life along the pipeline in Cameroon.
Cameroon: Pipeline to Prosperity? is the first installment in my ongoing exploration of Africa’s booming oil industry, Pipe(line) Dreams. You can read more about the project on the website.
Please support my work on this project by viewing the film and leaving your feedback. It is crucial to show funders that this work matters!
The U.S. now imports more oil from Africa than from the Middle East, with oil accounting for more than 80% of all African imports into the country. African is soon expected to account for close to one quarter of U.S. oil consumption.
With Africa increasingly seen as the next frontier of oil exploration, there is no shortage of oil companies lining up for financing from the World Bank Group. Oil drilling has begun in Ghana with support from the World Bank Group; loans may soon be approved for Uganda. New oil has been found in Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Angola — even Sierra Leone. The list goes on, with government and corporate officials in each country promising to make oil work for the people.
But in countries lacking accountability, with weak legal systems and lax or nonexistent environmental regulation and enforcement, is oil really a viable development option? And is there a valid reason that public funds subsidize these projects? Both the U.S. and China depend heavily on African oil, yet we rarely see anything about how that oil dramatically transforms African communities, economies and environments. Pipe(line) Dreams, a timely and globally relevant story, will bring much needed attention to the rapidly expanding oil industry in Africa.
A new oil spill was reported at the marine loading terminal offshore from Kribi at 1:45 am on April 22nd.
According to COTCO, the “minor spill” occurred during a violent storm. The transfer of oil from the loading terminal (FSO) to a waiting tanker was halted due to bad weather. High waves washed some “residual oil” from the deck of the waiting tanker. Again, according to COTCO, less than five barrels total were spilled and the oil was immediately cleaned up.
No oil has been reported on the coast, but fishermen did report seeing a sheen of oil offshore.
Several Cameroonian NGOs have released a statement deploring the lack of communication between COTCO and the local populations as well as the lack of any statement or information from the Cameroonian government. The Comité de Pilotage et de Suivi des Pipelines (CPSP), the Cameroonian authority responsible for the pipeline, has not made any public comments regarding the spill. With no information from the government and no journalists allowed near the marine loading terminal, it is extremely difficult to verify COTCO’s information.
In November 2009 the Cameroonian government adopted a national oil spill response plan. This plan, required by the World Bank, should have been in place before oil began to flow along the pipeline in October 2003. The Cameroonian government has not made the plan public and many civil society activists believe the plan remains non-operational. Samuel Nguiffo, from the Center for the Environment and Development, points to the unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico as a warning: “It is urgent that the government increase its capacity to respond to a disaster and make the oil spill response plan operational.”
In the event of a major spill, several million barrels of oil could end up in the Atlantic ocean 12 km. off the coast of Kribi, Cameroon’s main tourist destination and an important fishing and sea turtle nesting zone. The thought of a spill anywhere is terrifying, but watching what’s going on in the Gulf of Mexico now makes me extremely uneasy about Cameroon. Of course the situation in the Gulf is particular, but one clearly sees that controlling an oil spill, even with the best equipment and ample manpower, is incredibly difficult. Any significant spill at the marine loading terminal in Kribi would likely be an ecological (and economic) disaster of major proportions.
It’s important to remember that the offshore marine loading terminal at Kribi (the FSO), is a single-hulled refurbished tanker. Today all tankers, including those used as FSOs, must be double-hulled — an additional protection against spills.
The World Bank-supported Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline looks a lot different on the ground than it does from offices in Washington, D.C. Is the project a success? Depends who you ask!
One thing is certain: the controversy surrounding the “model” oil development project has hardly died down.
This video looks at ongoing compensation problems around Kribi, Cameroon. The Cameroonian Oil Transportation Company, COTCO (ExxonMobil), is responsible for compensating locals for lost lands and revenues.
Traveling from the fishing village of Bumé where locals have been suffering since pipeline construction crews destroyed their fishing grounds, to the Bagyeli pygmy villages in the rainforest, where the Bank-mandated, “Indigenous Peoples’ Plan”, has been stalled for years, I met one angry resident after another.
Today people are especially frustrated as they feel they have no recourse. The government is unresponsive; COTCO (ExxonMobil) is unresponsive. There’s nowhere for people to go with their complaints. It seems the world has forgotten about the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline.
Fragile existence. This is the story of life along the pipeline. Whatever happens to the global economy, the price of the barrel or ExxonMobil’s profits in 2010, life here will remain difficult. But the oil won’t stop flowing any time soon and as long as the pipeline is operational, there are opportunities for progress.
Peoples’ voices will be heard, their stories shared. Increased awareness, increased transparency, pressure from stockholders – these are all real possibilities that can lead to change. Oxfam has been actively involved in efforts to promote transparency in the extractive industries, for example, and recently launched a “Follow the Money” campaign. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is moving forward.
Of course any change on the ground will be minimal at best, but let’s all work to make 2010 a year with a bit more social and environmental justice where it’s needed most.
I don’t write much about Chevron, as ExxonMobil is the lead-operating partner on the Chad/Cameroon Development Project. But Chevron is one of the consortium members, with a 25% ownership stake in the venture.
The article doesn’t mention Chad or the pipeline; activists working on the Chad/Cameroon Development Project usually focus their attention on ExxonMobil. But it’s worth reminding people that the Chad Oil Project includes three private partners: ExxonMobil, Petronas and Chevron.
I found Asmus’ article interesting as he devotes part of it to discussing if and how Chevron can become part of the solution, including what he calls, A 12 Step Program for Chevron.
A similar program could be drawn up for the Chad/Cameroon Development Project. The challenge, of course, is getting a company as powerful as ExxonMobil to hear, let alone, heed the call for change.