EXXON, PENTAGON AND JIHAD TARGET CHAD
Sinister Convergence in New Sahel Terror War Front
by Wynde Priddy
US military presence and oil development seem to go hand in hand in the
developing world, and the latest entry is Chad, a landlocked country in
Africa's Sahel region. The AP reported March 16 that Washington, opening a
new front in the War on Terrorism, has begun training and equipping armies
along insecure Sahara desert border regions. The BBC reported March 23 that
soldiers of the Army's 10th Special Forces Group are already training
troops in Mali and Mauritania, with operations planned for Chad and Niger.
The new US military presence comes just as ExxonMobil has targeted Chad for
a major new thrust of oil development.
The new interest in Africa marks a shift from the United States'
long-standing reluctance to involve itself militarily on the continent. The
US currently acquires 17% of its imported oil from sub-Saharan Africa, and
most predict that within a decade that figure will rise to nearly 25%, as a
part of the current administration's plan to diversify America's oil
supply. At the same time the administration is reporting plans to rotate
U.S. troops regularly into bases and airfields all over the continent.
The developing partnership between Chad's government and Washington became
apparent in March, when Chad made an urgent call for U.S. help in the
aftermath of deadly clash with fighters from an Islamic extremist group.
The implicated Salafist Group for Call and Combat has publicly pledged its
allegiance to al-Qaeda. The U.S. claims that one of its leaders, Saifi
Ammari of Algeria, is recruiting among Muslims in Mauritania, Niger and
Libya, and sponsoring small armed groups throughout the region.
Meanwhile, a consortium led by ExxonMobil is overtaking Chad's southern
rural landscape with 265 oil wells in three different oilfield areas, and
the development quickly spreading. A $3.7 billion dollar pipeline, the
largest single private investment in Africa, was completed in 2003, linking
Chad to the Atlantic and western oil markets. The World Bank helped finance
the 600-mile pipeline, which begins in Chad's Doba Basin oil fields and
passes underground through Cameroon and its ecologically fragile rainforest
areas. It reaches the Atlantic Ocean at the coastal city of Kribi,
According to Economic Justice Now, an activist organization dealing with
globalization issues, the pipeline, even with its state-of-the art
equipment, poses a danger of groundwater contamination and pollution of
important regional river systems.
Investors in the pipeline project, including the World Bank, stipulated
that the oil revenues be transparent, and that the government must use the
money to better the lives of Chad's 9 million inhabitants. A citizens'
committee is being set up to review spending, and the World Bank is also
overseeing how Chad, one of the poorest countries in Africa, will manage
its new wealth.
The group of companies offered the government of Chad a $25 million dollar
"signing bonus," and the New York Times reported that the first payment was
spent on arms and the refurbishing of ministers' offices. The oversight
committee has turned down many requests for unnecessary expenditures.
This year Chad will receive it's first share of the oil royalties, about
$100 million-- which will expand the government's treasury by 40% virtually
overnight. The majority of Chad's people don't have access to electricity
and water, and per capita income barely exceeds $1,000 a year. The World
Bank claims that the project will alleviate harsh living conditions, with
oil revenue to be spent on development programs. The local affected
communities, however, have little confidence that they will see any of the
money. Critics say that it is unrealistic to expect equitable spending from
a government still recovering from years of civil war between factions from
the predominantly Christian south and Muslim north. Rights observers fear
that the money could be used to crush opponents of President Idriss Deby, a
Muslim from the partially Arab north.
Indeed, repression has started early, with anti-pipeline protests being
banned. Two private newspapers have been closed by the government, and one
irreverent radio station, Radio Liberte, is operating under threat of
suspension. One parliamentarian and vocal opponent of both the pipeline and
government corruption, Ngarledjy Yorongar, was jailed by President Deby
with a three-year sentence--only to be pardoned a week later at the demand
of World Bank President James Wolfensohn.
There have also been grave human rights problems, such as indiscriminate
killings and repression of the civilian population in the project area.
Complicating the problem is the severe refugee crisis along the eastern
border with Sudan's volatile Darfur region.
Chad's government could also demand a larger share of the wealth. Currently
it receives 12.5% in royalties, which is slight compared to that received
by Africa's oil giants, Angola and Nigeria. Many rural people are unhappy
about the payments they received. Villagers and oil company representatives
deliberated for weeks about how much the land was worth, driving up the
price of each mango tree to $1,000.
ExxonMobil states that by mid-2002 they had paid over $8.6 million in cash
and in-kind compensation, like farm equipment or sewing machines, to
individual land users who were affected, but the dismal state of
communities is reflected in the lack of schools, hospitals or other
promised improvements. ExxonMobil refuses responsibility saying that it is
ultimately up to the government to spend the money wisely.
The New York Times, The Making of an African Petrostate, February 18, 2004
The Associated Press, U.S. Forces Begin Focusing on West and North Africa,
March 16, 2004
Economic Justice Now, 1998 [http://www.economicjustice.org/chadCameroon.html]
BBC, March 23, 2004 [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3561619.stm]
"When Uncle Sam Comes Calling in Africa" by Suraya Dadoo Media Review April
ExxonMobil Compensation program web site
Drillbits & Tailings [ http://www.zmag.org/bulletins/pdrillb.htm#1]
Special to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, April 9, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution