Charles (R) and David (L) on the return drive to Lodwar as we overtake a convoy of tankers transporting fuel up north. © FoLT
As we drive back to Lodwar, a rehashed experience on the bumpy road we had almost forgotten, I think of the change that has come to Turkana. Not only is the national spotlight brightly shining on this pocket of northwestern Kenya, but also regional and international interests are directed towards it. The hope of oil, development, and inclusion in the larger Kenyan story is yearned for – eagerly. However, the complexity of how all this can be achieved successfully meets several barriers.
First, an open dialogue on the historical injustices that have been rendered against the people of Turkana must commence, with the goal of curing the wrongs done.
Second, the communities must be actively engaged and informed about the extraction of oil, coupled with the entire development process, and all potential implications in the industry both internationally and regionally. This duty lies with the government and the investors pumping millions into the ground for Turkana’s black gold.
Third, there is a strong need for concerted efforts by all political stakeholders – both at the county and national level – to engage around these issues objectively without seeking payoffs, side deals, under the table handouts, and being true to the principles of integrity and good governance in the Constitution.
Fourth, the incidental consequences of the development ought to be considered fully. For example, with the pursuit of oil, jobs have been created and businesses around the exploration area are thriving, but as a resultant the same jobs were lost and businesses affected due to international trends with oil prices. Can the effects of these likely uncontrollable consequences be mitigated? Furthermore, the question of security – both nationally, but more relevantly in southern Turkana – should be addressed in a manner that ensures that development does not exacerbate pre-existing sources of conflict.
Finally, a lack of up to date laws regulating communal land, petroleum exploration and development, local content, environmental degradation related to oil extraction and revenue sharing ought to be passed. Additionally, there is a strong need to ensure that the institutions created by these laws possess the requisite capacity to tackle the challenges posed to this nascent sector, the roles of all stakeholders – public and private – are clear, and they are fully in line with constitutional provisions.
The bridge over the full Turkwel River upon entry into Lodwar from the south. © FoLT
The drive back was much slower; David’s earlier haste had lessened. The sparsely occupied landscape dotted with shrubs and acacia trees that we had left behind was now replaced by buildings – including a good number being constructed, noisy boda bodas, tall poles connecting electricity lines, and a heavy evening foot traffic during our entry into Lodwar. As we crossed the bridge over the Turkwel River, where the space is only wide enough for one line of cars – I realized that in the transition towards oil development and production in the years down the line, a strong, sturdy and stable bridge had to be created to ensure that all involved – particularly the citizens of Turkana – benefited fully as the transition into a economic hub and source of wealth takes place.
The views expressed here by the author are entirely personal and are in no way those of the Friends of Lake Turkana or any other organization affiliated with him.
Unless stated otherwise, all the photographs were taken by and belong to the Friends of Lake Turkana which reserves all rights to the images.