Chad people protest against withdrawal of Shell and Elf

Nov 16, 1999 01:00 AM

More than 10,000 people took to the streets of N'djamena to protest the withdrawal of Elf and Shell from a $ 3 bn oil development project in Chad. The two-hour demonstration, of a size rarely seen in the Chad capital, mostly targeted the former colonial power, France. The pull-out, from the US-led oil development project in southern Chad's Doba Basin, was revealed.
"Elf's Withdrawal Is Unworthy of the Common History of Chad and France," one banner read, while another said: "We Congratulate the World Bank and Exxon" both of which remain in the project. "Come What May, Chad Oil Will Be Exploited," another banner read, as Exxon has set about finding partners to take up the stakes to be "progressively" abandoned by Elf and Shell, respectively 17.3 % and 34.6 %.
No reason was given for the decision, but officials said Elf and Shell would help Exxon in the search for new partners and honour their financial commitments in the meantime. The protesters marched to Independence Square where declarations were read out as Prime Minister Nassour Ouaddo, several members of government, and French Ambassador Alain du Bois Pean looked on.
A women's group demanded that France pay damages for Elf's pullout, while youths warned that Chad's "membership of the French-speaking world" was at stake. Veterans spoke of the "heavy tribute paid by Chad for the honour of France," and called on the former colonial power to "honour its moral debt." A joint motion was addressed to Ambassador Du Bois Pean calling on the French government "to use its power to make the project succeed."
Prime Minister Ouaddo praised the demonstrators, saying the massive turnout showed "your political maturity in the face of the test that Elf has imposed on us." "We in the political leadership take note of... your reactions, and of your valid claims. This peaceful march amply shows the desire of the Chad people to fight against poverty," he said.
The French ambassador told: "We take them (the slogans) seriously.... Beyond the Elf affair, President Idriss Deby and the Chad authorities know that we support the project." The consortium led by Exxon, with a 34.6 % stake, also includes Cameroon with 8.5 % and Chad with 5 %, with support from the World Bank.
The Doba project aims to tap reserves estimated at about 80 mm barrels of crude. The partners had projected an output of some 200,000 bpd from the site over a 25-year period to be delivered to the Cameroon port of Kribi via a pipeline.
A Chad opposition group, the National Front for a Renewed Chad (FNTR), has alleged that the withdrawal was a "serious matter of corruption that has upset the oil deal."

Source: IINX via Iinoil
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