Oil, Uranium Sparking Imperialist War Over Chad

Chad is the latest tinderbox to explode in Africa, and the world. Just in recent weeks, bloody conflict has erupted in “stable” Kenya, more war in Congo and continuous armed clashes in Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta region, among others. These fights have something in common: they’re caused by imperialism and local capitalists who have intensifies all the contradictions in the region, while the working masses pay with their lives.

After the Chad government and four rebel groups signed a cease-fire last October, fighting broke out again in early February. Rebel forces attacked N’Dajema, Chad’s capital, trying to oust strongman Idriss Deby. Chad is one of Africa’s poorest countries, but only for the people, not for its rulers and the imperialist corporations raking in big bucks here.

In 2003, after completion of a $3.7 billion pipeline linking its oilfields to Atlantic coast terminals, landlocked Chad became an oil exporter.

The Doba pipeline — operated by Exxon Mobil with partners Chevron and Malaysia’s state-run Petronas — pumps 160,000 barrels a day through Cameroon to the Gulf of Guinea.

Last September, Chad’s national oil refiner signed a joint venture deal with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), parent of PetroChina and China’s largest oil and gas producer. PetroChina says it has discovered at least 100 million tons of oil at a new project in Chad. (Reuters Factbox, 2/3)

Despite the oil revenues, there’s been no real improvement in most Chadians’ standard of living. Chad remains one of the world’s poorest countries, ranked 171 out of 177 in the UN development index, which uses criteria such as average income, life expectancy and literacy.

The rebels, which include some former high-ranking members of the Deby government, have support from Sudan, which sees Deby as backing anti-Sudanese government forces in Darfur. There are actually 300,000 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic living in UN camps in Chad. Thousands of Chadian refugees are fleeing the latest fighting.

France is still a leading trading partner of Chad, a former French colony. President Sarkozy claims he’s trying to break with old French policies of using military force to prop up corrupt regimes in Africa’s former French colonies, choosing diplomacy instead. But the military option is still open. France’s 1,500 troops lead the biggest European Union “peacekeeping” force that’s ever been here, as part of MINURCAT (UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad), supposedly to protect refugees from these two neighboring countries in the Chad camps. Small COS (French commando) groups are also operating in the border of Sudan and Central Africa, spying on rebel groups fighting the Chad government. And then Chad’s western neighbor Niger is France’s main source of uranium to fuel its nuclear reactors on which France is totally dependent to produce its electricity.

Thus, the fighting in Chad is becoming another regional war, involving Sudan and the Central African Republic, French and European troops, Exxon, Chevron, Malaysia’s Petronas and China’s CNPC (the main oil company in Sudan). Even Libya’s ruler, Col. Khaddafi, now a darling of Paris, is allowing French military planes operating in Chad to refuel in Libya airfields (Le Canard Enchaine, 2/6). The rivalry among the various imperialists and their oil companies to control the energy supplies of Africa and the world is intensifying the conflict.

All this is a recipe for endless imperialist wars, mass poverty and massacres. Indeed, for Africa’s toiling masses the choice is increasingly between imperialist-capitalist barbarism or uniting to smash these bloodsucking exploiters. It won’t be easy to break the many barriers the imperialists and local rulers use to divide the continent’s workers and peasants, and build a revolutionary communist movement, but it is the only viable solution to this hell.

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