Chad - before and after the implementation of the Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline project - is a poor, undemocratic and conflict-ridden country. The promise had been that oil exploitation in the Doba basin, in the south of the country, would bring about a bright future and would finally lift the entire nation out of poverty. Almost ten years after the official opening of the valve of the Doba crude oil, poverty continues to be rampant. Furthermore, President Déby has established himself as an authoritarian ruler amidst ongoing violent contestations of his rule by various rebel groups.
Based on desk studies and field research, this brief analyzes the impact of oil revenues on potential conflict at the production site, on conflicts around the governance of oil revenues and on conflict-finances. The Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline Project was a project supported by the World Bank, which had promised that the development of Chadian oil would lead to poverty alleviation and wanted to make it a model project in the extractive industry sector. As this brief demonstrates, in spite of this intention, revenues from oil exploitation were poorly governed and only insufficiently invested into development sectors, such as health and education. The people living in the oil producing region in southern Chad bear the brunt of the negative impacts by the oil activities. Their land is being taken by the consortium, infrastructures are being built for the oil development, but barely for the population, they have to endure worsened living conditions (dust, health risks, etc.) and poorly-carried out compensation measures.
Instead of bringing development to the people in the Doba oil basin and the whole of Chad, oil revenues are being used to fuel a patronage system, which strengthens the power-grip of the current government and especially the Head of State, President Déby. Oil revenues can be said to directly contribute to keep Déby in power - by financing his fight against rebellions and the co-optation of armed and unarmed political opponents.
At the same time, some rebel groups might see the oil wealth as an additional incentive to seize state power. Due to the negative socio-economic and environmental consequences of oil exploitation and their unsatisfactory mitigation, multifaceted conflict potential in the oil producing region exists. Nevertheless, the outbreak of violent conflict is unlikely as the area is closely monitored by security personnel. Violent crackdowns of previous rebellions in the now oil producing region are still vivid in local memory and avert new violent conflict.
This brief addresses the question of how the development of oil production in Chad has influenced conflict dynamics at the local and national level, bearing in mind the regional conflict system involving Chad, Sudan and the Central African Republic. It further sheds light on the role of the World Bank, as its involvement was crucial for the realization of the project. It concludes that the Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline project should not have taken place within the setting of lack of democracy, poor governance and ongoing violent conflict in Chad. Instead of serving as a model project, the example of oil exploitation in Chad can inform future extractive industry projects about the pitfalls of such an undertaking and the necessary prerequisites to be in place beforehand.