Flying on Lake Turkana to Turkana

Award winning Nigerian Environmentalist Nnimmo Bassey together with FoLT team during a trip to Lokichar. (From left) Ikal Angelei, Nnimmo Bassey, Joyce Lukwiya, Andrew Orina, Daudi Emase
Award winning Nigerian Environmentalist Nnimmo Bassey together with FoLT team during a trip to Lokichar. (From left) Ikal Angelei, Nnimmo Bassey, Joyce Lukwiya, Andrew Orina, Daudi Emase

By Nnimmo Bassey

Sometime in 2017 Kenya will begin to pump crude oil in commercial quantities. For some years now prospecting companies have been poking holes around Turkana, Kenya, looking for the so-called black gold. One of the places the oil companies planned to seek their treasure is Lake Turkana, a UNESCO heritage site and the largest desert lake in the world. Many writers have written about this lake – famous for appearing blue from the sky, but greenish when viewed from the ground…….

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Turkana County teams up with Nigeria’s Niger Delta to discuss Oil & Gas

nigertoturkanaTurkana County is raising the stakes in negotiating equity for its people as grassroots organisation Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT) teams up award winning Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey to tackle some key issues in Kenya’s fledgling oil sector.

One of the pertinent questions that have emerged since the discovery of oil in Turkana, is whether Kenya can and will avoid the failures of other resource rich countries like Nigeria where the oil host communities in the Niger Delta still live in abject poverty.

The oil producing giant of Africa has experienced disparate growth between positive economic indices and low human capital development not to mention the magnitude of environmental degradation from oil production.Friends of Lake Turkana have recognized and aim to achieve, is the need for an in-depth understanding of what Kenya can learn from countries like Nigeria, with over 50 years of oil production experience.

Nnimmo Bassey’s visit to Turkana County, is aimed at stimulating new ways of thinking and analysing the dynamics of oil exploration in Kenya. From the 26th-30th of August 2016, Bassey will chair forums on democracy, governance, transparency and accountability in the Oil & Gas industry with a diverse group of stakeholders in Turkana.

His visit will give an opportunity to the people of Turkana to gain firsthand knowledge from the Niger Delta experience and hopefully, inform current developments in Kenya’s Oil & Gas sector.

Bassey, who is also a critically acclaimed author, poet and architect, is currently the head of Nigeria’s Environmental Rights Action and Chair of the Friends of the Earth International. His seminal book, To Cook a Continent (2012) tackles destructive fossil fuel industries and climate change in Africa. In 2009, TIME magazine listed him as one of their Heroes of the Environment. The following year, he won the Right Livelihood Award also known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize.’ Some of his poetry collections include: We Thought It Was Oil But It Was Blood (2012) and I Will Not dance To Your Beat (2011).

Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT), is committed to fostering socio-economic and environmental justice in the Lake Turkana Basin, Kenya and Ethiopia. Our objective is to achieve this through consistent advocacy for the protection and conservation of Lake Turkana and its environs as well as increased participation of communities in environmental protection, policy formation, sustainable management and use of natural resources.

Please contact us on for more details.

US Government Opposes IFC Investment in Africa Oil

LoiyangalaniThe United States Treasury Department has said no to the IFC’s proposed equity investment of up to $50 million in Africa Oil Corporation. In a statement dated 9th July 2015, The Board of The Treasury expressed ‘serious concerns’ about this particular investment by the International Finance Corporations.

While recognizing the importance of the recent oil discovery around Lake Turkana, The Treasury’s reservations were triggered by their observation of how mismanagement of the ‘windfall revenue from hydrocarbon production’ can cause more harm than good to a country’s economy. The statement says in part:

The United States appreciates that the development of a hydrocarbon sector is a key priority for the Government of Kenya given the sector’s expected contributions to economic growth, poverty reduction, and government revenue. The United States notes, for example, that the development of the South Lockichar project alone is expected to generate more than $1.3 billion in revenue per year during the height of production, or slightly more than two percent of current GDP, using 2013 data. As the United States has seen in other countries, however, windfall revenue from hydrocarbon production, if not appropriately managed, can also cause harm to an economy.

The Treasury lists four key concerns that have driven them to opposing the investment:

  1. IFC’s lack of disclosure to the Board of key documentation that would have allowed a more thorough assessment of the risks associated with this proposed investment, which is all the more troubling given the project’s potential – together with that of downstream pipeline and port infrastructure – for significant impacts on critical habitats and marginalized communities.
  2. The United States disputes the observation in paragraph 2.5 of the project document that aspects of Africa Oil’s other exploration activities, which may similarly be in critical habitats or land claimed by marginalized communities, fall outside the scope of the IFC’s proposed investment.
  3. the United States is concerned by what it views as a lack of sufficient financial additionality. The United States notes that Africa Oil, a predevelopment stage company with no
    cash flow, is publicly listed on two separate stock exchanges, with a market capitalization of nearly $800 million, signifying ample investor demand given its potentially lucrative holdings. As such, the United States is not persuaded that the IFC’s investment is a necessary component of this project’s success.
  4. The United States is concerned that IFC feels as though an equity investment is necessary to put in place environmental and social (E&S) management systems when IFC’s performance standards should already apply to Africa Oil through the involvement of Helios Investment Partners LLP, Africa Oil’s largest shareholder and current IFC investee.

The United States government, thus, as represented by The Treasury, has entered a NO vote against this investment.

You can download and read the actual statement here…

Press Release: Natural Resource Conference in Lodwar, Turkana County

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 21st, October 2014

PRESS RELEASE: Natural Resource Conference Hosted by Friends of Lake Turkana (Oct 22nd – 23rd)

Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT) are hosting a conference titled Towards a Governance Agenda: Harnessing Natural Resources, Communities, and Development. The Lodwar event on natural resource management is the first of its kind to be held in the county of Turkana. The two-day conference hosted at FoLT’s new resource center facility brings together local communities, key stakeholders in natural resource management and government policy makers.

Dignitaries attending the conference include: H.E Governor, Josphat Nanok of Turkana County, Hon. Senator John Munyes (Turkana County) Laurence Morrissette (Acting Head of Cooperation, Canadian High Commission), Sandy Stash (Vice President Tullow Oil), Chrispine Omondi Juma (Director, Water Resources State Dept. Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources) and Ikal Ang’elei (Executive Director, FoLT).

The discovery of oil and water in the Turkana region as well as planned infrastructural development projects, have triggered great interest in the area. Tullow Oil has continued its exploration campaign, striking commercially viable quantities of oil in different parts of the Lake Turkana basin. Sustainable and proper management of these natural resources, and involvement of the local communities from the offset is necessary to effect sustainable and equitable development. 

Kenya is the largest economy in East Africa. In 2012, Kenya’s GDP accounted for 33% of the entire East African GDP. This is predicted to be bigger in the coming years, especially following oil discovery in Turkana. If managed prudently, the natural resources in the Lake Turkana Basin hold a promise for economic liberation and development in the region and Kenya at large. However, conflict may hinder progress. Its characteristics include concerns over irregular land transaction, low or non-community participation in natural resource processes, unclear compensation structure for loss of livelihoods and lack of sound policies and legislations, among others factors. 

EDITORS NOTE: Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT), is a grassroots organization founded in 2009 whose mission is to foster social, economic and environmental justice in the Lake Turkana Basin.

This is through:

•Protect and conserve Lake Turkana, the Lake Turkana Basin and its environment.

•Advocate for the rights of the Turkana Basin communities.

•Increase the participation of communities in environmental protection policy formulation, sustainable management and wise use of natural resources, & lobby for increased participation of communities in the development and governance of their resources


Kindly find attached the full program of the conference with more information and a longer version of this press release. Please follow the conversation live via Twitter @FoLTurkana #NatResourceConference 

For More Info/ Interviews Contact:

Sheila Bett      +254738738702 (Communications Officer, FoLT)

Anyiko Owoko +254721368983 (Publicist FoLT Natural Resource Conference)

FoLT Facebook: Friends of Lake Turkana 

Twitter: @FoLTurkana


Oil Governance: FoLT’s Perspective on Oil in Turkana

The recent oil discovery in Turkana has been termed as a historic discovery and is seen to be a boost to the country’s economy which offers Kenya a unique and exciting chance to alleviate poverty and create broad-based development and improved standards of living across the country. Howevor the lack of a benefit sharing mechanism between county and country doesnt show the clear picture of the direct benefits to the county’s economy. Moreover, international experience points to challenges which are often faced by resource-rich developing countries in translating mineral wealth into peace and prosperity.

Much has been written about the “resource curse” and a deepening range of political, economic and social challenges is visible. Disputes related to natural resources have exacted a toll on far too many African societies, turning the dreams of national prosperity that come with the discovery of such natural resources into perpetual nightmares. Consequently, these disputes have resulted in violent conflicts, environmental destruction, corruption, untold human hardship, displacements and a devastated future for entire communities. This sad but true reality causes even the most exuberant optimist to wonder if the discovery of oil in one’s county should be a cause of jubilation or trepidation.

Aside from a few exceptions, wherever there is oil on the continent, there is misery and conflict. The causes of these conflicts, as seen across the region, range from a lack of mechanisms for accountability, inequities in the distribution of oil wealth, to injustices of endemic political and corporate abuses of human rights in affected communities. This is manifested through the violations of rights, total disregard for laws and flagrant disregard for the interests and wellbeing of communities.

A common trend as seen in oil-related conflicts from Angola and Nigeria to Sudan, among others, is the emergence of aggrieved and exploited groups of citizens, who resort to violence as the only means of demanding accountability, inclusion and justice. ‘A riot is the language of the unheard’, as Martin Luther King put it. The billions of oil wealth generated do not reflect in the conditions of the people and the communities from which the oil is drilled. The continent’s leading oil producers ;Algeria, Nigeria and Angola, rank 104, 158 and 143 respectively on the 2009 United Nations Human Development Index. Other resource-endowed African countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) also rank near the bottom of human development in the world.

The absence of strong mechanisms for accountability and oversight have allowed small cliques of greedy elites and their corporate allies to amass the oil wealth to the detriment of national development in too many of our countries. It is a trend too pervasive across the continent, so what measures is Kenya putting in place to avert this?

Based on the guiding Brussels Principles- October 2009: A new Paradigm for Oil and gas development which countries and their legislators must observe as they debate the Oil game in their respective countries;

  1. The need for all Oil producing countries to avoid/limit hydro carbon development to the maximum extent possible
  2. The need for prior informed consent of local/indigenous people before any oil site is approved for development
  3. The need for comprehensive environmental planning/monitoring(Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA),Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) )
  4. The need for value Ecosystem and social systems adequate risk benefit calculation.
  5. Avoidance of Oil mining in ecologically/culturally sensitive areas-“No-Go-Areas”(IUCN Category1-1V)
  6. Minimization of Ecological/Cultural Foot print by sticking to Best Available Technology(BAT), Risk Reduction to As Low As Possible(ALAP), not As Low as Reaonably Possible (ALARP)
  7. Minimization of emissions-air(gas flaring), water(drilling fluids, ballast water),and land
  8. Minimization of energy use
  9. Avoiding Petroleum Industry purchase of Bio diversity offsets
  10. Oil Spill prevention and Response-(Best Available Technology (BAT).
  11. Government Industry Transparency (Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Publish What You Pay (PWYP), Extractive Industries Transperency Initiative (EITI)
  12. Effective Government Regulatory Oversight
  13. Public Engagement-Citizens’ Advisory Councils – the government should impose high carbon tax on oil companies, encourage the formation of Advisory councils, be transparent in its dealings with the oil companies.
  14. Emphasis on Protection of human rights-Setting up guidelines for security forces
  15. Public revenue-Fair,Transparent(maximize take + Spend wisely + Savings fund
  16. Maximize benefit to local economy-Jobs, revenue sharing etc
  17. Setting up sufficient financial liability in case the Oil investors fail to act responsibly
  18. Restoration of all damages as much as possible(the Oil investor)
  19. Establish and pre-finance project closure protocols
  20. Policy reform-transfer subsidies impose carbon tax on Oil companies and invest $ 3 trillion/year in sustainable energy future.

In order to safeguard societal interests, the following need to be put in place before oil production begins:

The proposed Freedom of Information Act should be passed and must guarantee unconditional public access to information, including on revenues, investments and contracts. 

  • A mechanism for benefit-sharing between the national government and county government be spelled out upon the installation of our County governments.
  • The need for a regulatory environment that fosters transparency concerning all revenues and in negotiation and award of contracts;
  • Lobby for Kenya to be a member of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI)
  • Detailed written commitment in addressing environmental impacts that may accrue from oil drilling activities in the area.
  • Because Oil drips” occurs during production process and transportation, there is the need for the government to also develop a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan to complement any other existing environmental mitigation plans
  • All information regarding developments in the oil sector including environmental conservation strategies, Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs), revenue sharing and production should be accessible and well elaborated.
  • The importance of balancing petroleum production with conservation of the different exploration areas’ unique biodiversities, and wider environmental wellbeing;
  • Ensuring other sectors of the economy will withstand fluctuating petroleum prices;
  • Enforcing high standards of corporate responsibility and compliance on the part of investing companies;
  • Ensuring that the anticipation of wealth from Turkana’s oil does not intensify land insecurity, ethnic/ sectarian competition and other conflicts;
  • Halt any lease / allocation of any land within Turkana county till structures are put in place to monitor any lease of land.
  • Building public participation and capacity to understand the new sector.

There is need for citizen oversight- Vigilant citizens remain the best guarantee against corruption and for safeguarding the public interest. Citizens and the media must see and treat their monitoring role as a responsibility. Based on the pathetic track record of most of our political and public officials, personal and not public interest is going to be the foremost priority of most of those who would be representing us in the planning, negotiations and decision processes. If ‘we the people’ don’t stand up for our collective interest, no one else will do it for us.

Written by Ikal Angelei, Director of Friends of Lake Turkana

Joy as Kenya strikes oil

By Moses Njagih and Njiraini Muchira – The Standard

Ngamia1Beneath Turkana County, the land of burning sand, blistering heat, so many hungers, and untold human misery, lies oil deposits that could forever change Kenya’s economic fortunes.

The question remains how big are the underground oil wells in volume, their commercial value, and years it will take before Kenya can have it flowing across its pipelines.

But as the country toasted to President Kibaki’s surprise announcement that an Anglo-Irish oil exploration firm, Tullow Oil Company, had struck the precious commodity that accounts for 25 per cent of the country’s import bill, another burning question lingered in the shadows… Read more…

Minister’s firm sold Turkana oil block for Sh800m

By Jaindi Kisero – Daily Nation

A company associated with a Cabinet minister sold the block, where oil was found in Turkana, for a fortune.

In 2010, Turkana Drilling Company, associated with the Cabinet minister who was affected in Monday’s reshuffle, sold Block 10BB for $10 million (Sh840 million) to Africa Oil.

Turkana Drilling’s case is just an example of how small firms might be using influence in government to make hundreds of millions of shillings by trading in oil prospecting licences.

The whole business of acquiring blocks has been invaded by influence peddlers and well-connected middlemen, including Cabinet ministers. Watch the video below and go to Daily Nation website to Read More