Monday, December 20, 2004

Gabon oil province up in arms

Nigeria's Niger Delta isn't the only African region where people are protesting against the effects of oil company exploitation and the lack of a fair shake from oil revenues. In southwestern Gabon, residents are also up in arms, according to this article (in French) from the Inter Press Service.

Villages in the department of Ndoulou have united under an umbrella organization. The collective's spokesman said, "Villagers are beside themselves because of the government's unkept promises and not understanding why oil money doesn't benefit their communities or improve their standard of living."

Another village fumed, "We refuse to live in poverty, without electricity, while we could benefit from the oil manna to construct schools, health centers and roads to improve our daily lives."

The Canadian oil company Panafrican Energy evacuated its staff and suspended activities on November 27, following clashes between locals and gendarmes who were protecting their facilities.

IPS notes that for the last few years, the people of the oil-producing provinces of Gabon, who have been hit by an economic crisis, want to know where the oil-money is going.

"The absence of transparency in the management of the oil industry and the rise of pockets of poverty are signs that led one to think that other crises might arise once the oil fields are exhausted," warned Lucien Batchi, economics professor at the University of Libreville in the Gabonese capital.

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