INTERVIEW-Kenya risks oil conflict if wealth not shared-minister
Wed May 2, 2012 5:44pm GMT
* Turkana region minister calls for sharing of oil wealth
* Warns against neglect that could spark insurrection
* Points to example of fugitive Kony's war in north Uganda
By Katy Migiro
LODWAR, Kenya, May 2 (AlertNet) - The Kenyan government must share revenues
from its newfound oil reserves with the communities in its impoverished
north to avoid armed insurrections, the minister for the region said.
In March, Kenya announced its first oil discovery by British-based explorer
Tullow Oil in remote Turkana County, which borders South Sudan, Ethiopia and
"My nightmare is to have a Kony-type group say: 'You marginalised us all
these years and this is our wealth and therefore we want to break away', and
basically just start an insurgency that's endless," Mohamed Elmi, Minister
for Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands, told AlertNet in an interview.
He was referring to Joseph Kony, an internationally wanted war crimes
suspect whose Lord's Resistance Army has trapped much of north Uganda in a
nightmare of bloodshed, hunger and fear.
East Africa has become a hot spot for oil and gas exploration. Neighbouring
South Sudan is an oil producer, while commercial oil deposits were found in
Uganda, and there are vast natural gas deposits in Tanzania and Mozambique.
In Kenya's Turkana County, 60 percent of the population are pastoralists who
depend upon their livestock for survival. Successive droughts have hit them
hard, leaving millions dependent on food aid.
The sun-baked, scrubby beige flatlands are awash with small arms, often
smuggled over the border from neighbours such as Somalia.
Cattle rustling and clashes over grazing land and water are common among
pastoralists, with well-armed raiders often crossing over from Ethiopia and
Uganda to steal cattle.
"There are high levels of poverty. There are excessive illegal arms. In
Upper Rift Valley alone in around 1997, it was estimated that they had over
200,000 guns," said Elmi, interviewed during a trip to the Turkana district
The Ngamia-1 well, where oil was discovered, is in the Lokichar basin that
is part of the East African Rift System.
"I don't see how any legislation will pass without saying a certain amount
will go to the county for its development, purely for the security side, to
avoid problems," the minister said.
OIL LAND ROW BREWING
Many African oil producers have fallen prey to the "oil curse" with their
economies becoming totally dependent upon the black gold. Oil has fuelled
massive corruption and conflict as different players fight for a share of
To avoid this trap, experts advise that oil revenues should be channelled
into sectors like infrastructure and education to build a sustainable base
for future development.
Elmi stressed the need for oil revenues to trickle down to local people in
the Turkana region.
In Nigeria's Niger Delta, billions of dollars of oil revenues have gone to
the federal government while local residents complain of poverty,
unemployment and environmental pollution, which has resulted in years of
"Will the drilling of that whole place create any employment? Will Turkanas
have enough technical staff that will work there? Or will it just be
extracted and move and go and develop the rest of the country?" said Elmi.
Some fear that given the endemic corruption in Kenya, the new-found oil
wealth will just be siphoned off by the elite.
A row is also brewing over the ownership of the land on which oil was
discovered. Turkana County Council claims it was acquired illegally as the
local authority was not involved.
Traditionally, Turkana community land is managed by 27 clans, each with
their own territory. The community wants an upcoming Community Land Bill to
give each clan a title deed and clarify how shareholding agreements between
the community, government and private investors should be drawn up.
"We are concerned that some people have already grabbed the oil land," said
Turkana Central MP Ekwee Ethuro.
"It's community land. It is trust land. On the current legal regime, where
we have trust land, there is a process of appropriation which, to the best
of my knowledge, was never undertaken," he said.
Turkana leaders have written to the energy and lands ministries to find out
how exploration licences were acquired.
"We want the documentation," said Ethuro. "Who were these fellows? Did money
actually exchange hands? What is the status of that land if it is sold?"
(AlertNet is a humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation.
> www.trust.org/alertnet) (Editing by
David Clarke and Mark Heinrich)
C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved
------------[ Sent via the dehai-wn mailing list by dehai.org]--------------
Received on Wed May 02 2012 - 16:42:15 EDT