Speaker informs students, public of Chadian issues

by Travis Reed

Central African nation Chad has always had a few problems.
The nation has been plagued by violence and government corruption since it gained independence from France more than 35 years ago. But if a key World Bank loan goes through as scheduled, things are going to get much worse, said Delphine Djiraibe.
Djiraibe, founder of the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, spoke to about 20 University students and community members at the University Law School about the grave consequences of a proposed $3.5 billion oil pipeline between Chad and Cameroon.
After several companies bailed out of the project, the countries are relying on outside funding to keep the pipeline on track.
The problem, says Djiraibe, is the corruption in the Chadian and Cameroonian governments — already rumored to engage in drug trafficking and embezzlement — is only going to get worse if they secure international funding.
“We’re sure that if the project starts and they get more money, they’ll just steal it and use it for themselves,” Djiraibe said. “Nothing will be done for the local population. If they approve the project now, the government will only get more power.”
Djiraibe and her anti-pipeline colleagues are calling for a moratorium on international funding for the project. She said the World Bank needs to take a closer look at the country’s problems before they funnel development funds through an allegedly corrupt government.
But so far, Djiraibe said prospects for blocking the loans are not looking good. Not even the massive protests staged against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Seattle and Washington, D.C., have given them leverage, she said.
The oil to be pumped through the line will ultimately end up on the Atlantic Coast to be exported to America and other nations who consume principally imported oil.
The pipeline is engineered by American oil giants Exxon, Chevron and Malaysian oil company Petronas.
Djiraibe wants to use the prospect of international aid for the pipeline as a bargaining tool to secure better protection of human rights in Chad.
The project might also harm Chad’s water supply and agricultural industry. The environmental assessment commissioned by the World Bank indicates that the oil will come out of the ground with water, and the oil will be extracted — while the water will be injected back into the groundwater supply.
Djiraibe said the process can’t help agricultural production, and it’s especially harmful because it could violate the integrity of the water supply in a region that boasts the highest percentage of agricultural production in the country.
Sam Huston, a University civil engineering senior, spent last summer in Cameroon. He said he’s seen first-hand that the profits from oil don’t go to the people who are harmed by the drilling, but instead are hoarded by the corrupt military leaders; and corruption might not be the project’s only problem.
“It seems almost an impossible task to run a pipeline through that region because it’s in one of the most rural areas in the world,” Huston said. “Anyone who undertakes the project has a lot to benefit from it, and I’m sure it’s not the people of Cameroon.”

Travis Reed covers environment and transportation and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3232.