Kaieteur News – The French are now eyeing Guyana. In a recent interview on social media, the French Ambassador to the Guianas – Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana – has said that one of the reasons for France being in the Guiana Shield is because of French Guiana, an overseas territory of France.
But then he expressed an interest in energy cooperation pointing to the possibility of Guyana supplying energy to French Guiana. For all the years that Guyana has had relations with France, such a heightened interest has never, as now, when oil is being produced.
But if French Guiana is interested in procuring energy from Guyana, it is in its interest to support a better deal for the country from the oil companies. A better deal would make the energy deal more possible. Right now, the crumbs that Guyana is receiving will never be sufficient to pursue such a deal.
However, France will not be critical of the oil agreements, which were signed between the Government of Guyana and ExxonMobil, Hess and CNOOC. For despite France eyeing an energy deal with Guyana for its nearby overseas territory, France has vested stakes in Guyana’s oil industry.
After all, a French-owned company, TOTAL, has significant interests in the Canje, Orinduik and Kanuku oil blocks. Three years ago, TOTAL reported that it had acquired a 35 percent working interest in the Canje Block. It had acquired then also a 25 percent working interest in the Kanuku Block, and a similar stake in the Orinduik Block.
Interestingly, while French companies are making inroads into the extractive sectors overseas, the French government is aiming to become a global champion of the environment. It was in France in December 2015 that the landmark Paris Agreement was signed. And France is now pushing through an Environmental Bill.
But despite the hallmark Paris Agreement on climate change being signed in France in 2015, do not expect the French to be taking any strident position against the oil companies in Guyana where there is concern over the lack of proper insurance coverage and compensation in the eventuality of an oil spill.
Emanuel Macron, the French Prime Minister, has been pushing for a low-carbon economy, noting that climate action is necessary since there is no Planet B. He is also said to be supportive of making ecocide – the destruction of ecosystems – a crime under international law.
However, throughout history the French have been notorious for speaking one language at home and another overseas. The French Revolution of 1789 was driven by the cries of liberty, equality and fraternity. But France has also been a colonial power, which has denied and deprived others, particularly in Africa, of these very ideals.
The French Revolution denied freedom and liberty to Africans in its colonies in the West Indies. As Dr. Walter Rodney detailed in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, how France was among the European colonies, which plundered Africa’s wealth.
That fact was echoed by the late Nigerian economist, Obadiah Mailafia, who said, “The French have been at the forefront in the enslavement, colonisation and raping of [Africa]. They stole our gold, diamonds and other natural resources.”
This is not an Afro-centric opinion. Former French President has conceded that, “Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century.”
The Europeans, including the French, no longer need to colonise or invade countries to strip them of their wealth. They do this quite comfortably through their multinational corporations.
French multinationals have left a legacy of underdevelopment in Africa. They are not there to develop those countries but to plunder them. Not only do these companies extract and export the continent’s raw materials but they also sell them finished products.
The operations of French oil companies have already begun to create problems in East Africa. Late last year there were reports that 12,000 families had lost land in Uganda and Tanzania because of the laying of overland pipelines. And there has been a dispute as to whether the residents affected have been compensated. The oil companies say yes but non-government organisations are denying this.
Despite France’s attempts to become a champion of the environment, that country is pushing ahead with the controversial East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline. Environmentalists have been critical of the project indicating that it will not pay for itself and that it will contribute to climate change. But that has not stopped work from proceeding.
Guyana has to be wary of those who appear to be bringing good news. Guyana has to be wary of having other oil companies investing in local oil Blocks, especially when ExxonMobil has a stake in those Blocks and therefore can use its existing agreement to cream off the country’s wealth and leave crumbs for Guyanese.
The French Ambassador should be welcomed to Guyana. But if he really wants to know what the local sentiments are, he should not be speaking only to social media operatives. He should engage the mainstream media so that he can be grilled about France’s inconsistency between its environmental posture and its support for oil projects, which are harmful to the environment, and so that he can be enlightened as to why Guyanese are not keen in having more oil companies under the present arrangements.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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