Monday, January 11, 2010

My Memories of Cabinda

Few people have heard of Cabinda, the oil-rich Angolan enclave where gunmen allegedly belonging to the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) attacked the bus carrying Togo's national football team, killing three people and seriously injuring several others.

I've not reported on the conflict, but I did visit Cabinda about 10 years ago. Chevron flew me on a private jet from Luanda, the Angolan capital, to its base in Cabinda, from where the company took me by helicopter to one of the many oil rigs stationed offshore. I remember getting the PR spiel from the Chevron spokesman, who said the company was heavily investing in education, health and social services in Cabinda. Turns out that "heavy investment" amounted to about $60,000 a year. At the same time Chevron had just announced a new, multi-billion dollar oil exploration project in the region.

From the little I saw of Cabinda out of the helicopter window -- Chevron wouldn't let me visit outside the base because it said it couldn't guarantee my security -- the place looked just like much of the rest of Angola: desperately poor. I do remember the Houston-based, American supervisor of the oil rig bragging about having the best frozen yoghurt in Africa on board the rig. Not sure how he could know that since he also said he'd never been off the Chevron base, but I have to admit it was pretty tasty.

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