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I wanted to see for myself the situation around the Doba basin and whether critics were justified in heaping so much blame onto Exxon Mobil.Getting there from N'Djaména, Chad's capital, was going to be a challenge, though.Moundou, like most of Chad, spends its nights in total darkness, save for the flickers of gas lamps and candles, or the headlights of passing motorcycles.Meanwhile, in nearby Kome, the twenty-five-mile-wide Exxon Mobil facility lights up the night sky for miles around thanks to its state-of-the-art 120-megawatt generating plant.In one of the extraordinary ironies of Chad's oil boom, this energy-rich country's dilapidated grid provides, at the best of times, a mere 20 megawatts of electricity.The world's newest oil producer literally cannot keep the lights on.There is no refinery for Doba crude to be sent to, so every last drop of Chad's crude goes straight into the Exxon Mobil pipeline and straight onto supertankers parked off the Cameroonian coast.
None of this was a problem for Exxon Mobil staff, of course, because the company had its own airport and chartered a fleet of planes making regular flights between N'Djaména and Doba.Nor was I allowed to speak to Exxon staff at any point while I was in the country, not even off the record. Given the cost of hiring a car and driver for the two-day round-trip south—at least 0 a day—public transport rapidly emerged as my only option.At the crack of dawn one Thursday, I watched as my suitcase was lifted to the roof of a beaten-up old Land Cruiser and steadily squashed under a small mountain of accumulating bags and boxes and threadbare trunks.In 2005 Chad's national airline, Toumaï Air Chad, was down to one functioning plane, a battered 737 servicing six African destinations and one domestic airport in the east of the country, as well as the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
Until such time as it was able to purchase a second aircraft, Toumaï regretted that it would not be providing service to southern or northern Chad.On the way back, two days later, I treated myself to "The government ignored all the negatives.