On Friday, October 10 2003, before African head of states and foreign dignitaries in Kome, Chad, President Idriss Deby symbolically turned the tap that opened the flow of 225 000 barrels of oil.
For the next 25 years, approximately 900 million barrels of oil will be pumped from 300 oil wells drilled in Doba, south of Chad
, along a 1070km pipeline to Cameroon on the Atlantic coast.
WB financing, which totalled just 4 percent of the cost, was crucial to the project.The oil consortium comprising of Exxon
, Petronas, and Chevron considered the participation of WB
as a necessary political risk insurance, which enabled them to raise more money on international capital markets.Meanwhile, the WB
embraced the project as an unparalleled opportunity for land-locked Chad
to lift its 6.5 million population out of acute poverty, and for ocean-bordered Cameroon to generate much needed revenues.
Some months after Chad
, the world's fifth poorest country, entered the pantheon of Africa's petro-states, it is worth taking stock of the overall project impacts now that the exploitation phase has started.Has the project broken free from the traditional gap between expectations and dismal realities of oil exploitation?Better still, has the oil been a Weapon of Mass Poverty (WMP) or a Weapon of Mass Development (WMD) to Chad
The background to any petroleum project is key in determining the development outcomes.In fact, the underlying development problems associated with the extraction of black gold are not inherent in the resource itself.However, there is little disagreement on the ability of oil to ratchet up pre-existing conflict in a society; oil can become the very rationale for starting war.In this light, the socio-political environment in which WB
approved the project was a potent recipe for poor development outcomes.
There is an endemic mix of corruption and civil strife in Chad
and Cameroon.For instance, Chad
, since independence, has been marred by a vicious cycle of conflicts and war.
in June 2000 discounted this burgeoning corruption and civil strife in Cameroon and Chad
respectively to approve the project.
The law provides for the following division of the $2 billion royalties and dividends that would accrue from the project in the next 25 years: 10 percent set aside in a future generation-fund to prepare Chad
for a post-oil future; the remaining 90 percent would pass through an offshore petroleum revenue account; 80 percent of which would go to five priority sectors (health, rural development, education, infrastructure, and environmental and water resources); 5 percent would go to the Doba oil producing region; and the remaining would be used by the Chadian government to tackle pressing operational needs.
To mainstream transparency, accountability, and participation, an oversight committee, comprising representatives from civil society, government, administration, and the judiciary was created to monitors the flows and approve spending from the offshore account.
Undoubtedly, this initiative is laudable.However, there are some flaws, which incapacitate it.For instance, three months after Chad
started to taste the oil revenues, the committee lacked basic office facilities.
It is time to send some United Nations development experts to Chad
and Cameroon to uncover Weapons of Mass Poverty.
...* Charles Mutasa is Research and Policy Analyst at the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD).
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In fact, the Darfur crisis played itself out throughout last year, so that in October, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) noted that tens of thousands of people who had fled from Darfur in western Sudan to neighbouring Chad
were "invisible" to the humanitarian community, receiving practically no assistance.