In June 2000, in spite of a three years global opposition campaign, led by local population and International NGOs, the World Bank financed the Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline, a 1,100 km (685 mile) pipeline for crude oil from southern Chad, through tropical forest, to Cameroon’s Atlantic coast. The project also included the construction of 300 oil wells in Chad. The Cameroonian rainforest covers an area of about 20 million hectares, some 40 percent of the national territory. Besides posing a serious threat upon the biodiversity and the ecosystem of the country, the construction of the oil pipeline and the subsequent deforestation generated serious social conflicts, and deprived local indigenous communities of territorial resources and traditional livelihoods, especially the Bakola Pygmy people, who rely on hunting and gathering. Bantou villagers claimed Pygmies’ lands as theirs and received the compensations which were due to the Pygmies. In 2002, a project by Forest Peoples Programme helped resolve some of the long-standing rivalries between the Bantou and the pygmies. Overall the compensation plan by Cameroon Oil Transportation Company (COCTO) is insufficient. And so was the “Indigenous Peoples Programme”, implemented by the FEDEC, which was not adequate to the Pygmies’ needs.
The Yaounde Peoples Tribunal was launched in September 2005 by organizations supporting local communities five years protest against the project denouncing serious social and environmental impacts and investigating project related human rights violations. In operation since October 2003, local NGOs denounce the project and enumerate the numerous oil spills regularly occurring. The oil extractivist industry also threatens the fishing economy of Kibri, the Cameroon’s port from where the oil exported. Far from being a poverty relief, the pipeline provokes health problems to the population living in the 242 villages where it goes through. In 2011, a complaint against the World Bank and International Finance Corporation listed the following points against COTCO’s operations:
- A rise in HIV/AIDS after the laying of the pipeline -Concerns over quality and adequacy of compensation packages -Loss of livelihoods among fishermen -Inappropriate waste management -Work related accidents and inadequate compensation - Displacement of and improper compensation to, an indigenous community - Concerns about sub contractors and compensation process and levels -Concerns regarding royalties for the passage of oil through Cameroon.
In spite of the multiplication of reports or monitoring entities (such as the International Advisory Group or the External Compliance Monitoring Group) following up on the situation and set up by the World Bank, the international institution has demonstrated its incapacity “of influencing the operations of oil companies in any meaningful way, so that they become more respectful of the environment and the rights of the affected communities and workers“.
The pipeline also has severe consequences on Chad. Scandals bust up denouncing that the government finances its war against the rebels in the North and East of the country with the revenues from oil. None of that money has benefited the local residents affected by the pipeline, while its route is very close to Chad’s most fertile region.