How international social movements are working with the Chad political opposition and environmental movements in an attempt to raise questions of the legitimacy of environmentally destructive projects funded by the World Bank.
12 / 2001
Mr. Yorongar Ngarlejy is the opposition leader of Chad. He believes that he is alive today because of the solidarity of international non-government organisations (NGOs). He has been arrested, beaten and tortured a number of times, and every time this happens, the international community responds by placing pressure on their respective governments to have him released. Mr. Ngarlejy says that the sad fact is that this international support only happens because he is a public figure. There are millions of people who are also political prisoners but remain anonymous. As a result, solidarity needs to be wider, not just concentrating on prominent figures. This is a story that allows a comparison between the legitimacy of international social movement with that of the many destructive projects financed by international financial institutions like the World Bank. An international consortium led by Exxon/Mobil is planning a multi-billion dollar oil project in the countries of Chad and Cameroon. The Chad/Cameroon project would consist of the development of 300 oil wells in southern Chad and the construction of a 650 mile pipeline from the oil fields through Cameroon to Cameroon’s Atlantic coast. If the venture goes forward, it will be the largest construction project in sub-Saharan Africa. Concerns that the project will greatly exacerbate existing problems with corruption and human rights abuses in Chad and Cameroon have placed the oil pipeline project in controversy. There has already been an increase in violence and human rights abuses in Chad as a result of the pipeline project. The World Bank is an institution that is given legitimacy by governments around the world, and in turn, it has given legitimacy to this project. It has a charter that recognises solidarity and human rights. But its deeds do not match its words. From the experience of Chad, it is the profit motive that drives the decisions of the World Bank, with the human and the environmental consequences ignored. Legitimacy comes only from democratic processes. If you compare the democracy of the World Bank and trans-national corporations with that of social movements, we begin to see were legitimacy lies. Within Chad, Mr. Ngarlejy states that the population has no say in the projects financed by such institutions. Therefore, there are many protests against decisions such as funding of the Chad/Cameroon pipeline. The result is always one of violence instituted by the government authorities. For the opposition movement in Chad, there is a reliance on the international NGOs and the civil protest movements, because there is nowhere else to turn. Social Movements are often the only tool to fight injustice - the only tool for change. Social movements assist in placing pressure on institutions such as the World Bank. It is social movements that represent the demands of democratic movements, and it is them that have legitimacy. Despite all the negative publicity around the protests, Mr. Ngarlejy would like to see the movements and the protests grow, because they are driven by something other than profit, so it is them that have legitimacy. The effectiveness of the protest movements is repeatedly seen. For example, 15 years ago some 200 NGOs protested to raise awareness of the democratic struggle within Chad as well protest against World Bank projects. The World Bank eased off, but when interest began to dwindle, the projects started again. Alliances between northern NGOs and democratic struggles are important, because current political structures means that 50 NGOs protesting in the North, has more impact than 10,000 protestors in the South. The legitimacy of the protest movement also comes from a connection with a global concern beyond profit. Environmental damage in Chad is also damage in Africa, and eventually the entire World’s population will experience it. Therefore, as humans, we have an obligation to protests against this destruction. This file was made with Mr. Ngarlejy in Lille, during the 2001 World Assembly. However, Mr. Ngarlejy is leaving early to prepare for the World Bank inspection panel, which is visiting Chad to review the impacts of the pipeline. The panel will visit Chad because of the pressure placed on the World Bank by social movements, and as a result, such pressure must continue. Such protests must never stop or projects will go ahead without accountability. The lesson is that dialogue between democratic movements in all parts of the world must continue, because it the only way to institute change and ensure legitimacy.
The importance of this file is that it shows how different people from different parts of the world are working together to protest against injustices, and often succeeding. The fact that Mr. Ngarlejy is sharing his story is a source for inspiration that cooperation across nations and between cultures can promote rights, despite the many set backs. It should also be noted that the discussion was undertaken through the assistance of an interpreter, with some words having to be negotiated.
This file was made with Mr. Yorongar Ngarlejy, Opposition leader and democratic campaigner of the African nation of Chad. It was made at the World Assembly, in Lille, France (dec. 2001) with the assistance of an interpreter. Contact : Opposition leader and democratic campaigner of the African nation of Chad : POP 4197, N’Djemena, Chad - Tel: + 33 687 981 381 - firstname.lastname@example.org - email@example.com
Interview with Yorongar Ngarlejy