Monday, July 9, 2007


Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil, by John Ghazvinian
$16.50 at
ISBN: 0151011389
An outstanding new book on an extraordinary new topic, positively not to be missed.
Oil has been discovered in sub-Saharan Africa. At first there was hope that this would mean the long-suffering African people would finally get some relief from their troubles. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way and the story about how and why will astound you.
Nigeria is the world's seventh-largest oil exporting nation, producing millions of barrels per year; yet the majority of its 128,000,000 people live in Stone Age poverty.
How is this possible? Big oil companies like Shell and Chevron just take the oil, often without paying a cent to the poor people who live where they're drilling. Many of the inhabitants lack basic necessities such as electricity, water, public schools, and usable roads.
Several times they've spilled oil into the Niger delta, poisoning the drinking water for millions of people. The earth has been bombed and the air made noxious with Natural Gas fumes. All this suffering is ignored because it's mostly unknown worldwide.
When oil was discovered off the shore of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea, it seemed like a dream come true: the nation is small enough so that every citizen could share some of the benefits. Yet most of the people are worse off then they were before. Where has all the oil money gone? Into the personal coffers of the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang, who paid $2.6 million in cash for a ten-bedroom mansion in Washington, DC. He has a mansion, luxury cars, and wardrobe full of designer suits in every city he visits.
The story here is an outrageous affront to justice and decency. Ghazvinian obviously did a lot of research and is a pretty good writer. His adventures on a motorboat visiting remote Nigerian villages makes interesting reading besides. The people of Western Africa have suffered for centuries due to European and American imperialism. This latest atrocity only exacerbates their situation. Public awareness of this issue is the only solution. Inform yourself, and then pass the book on to a friend.

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