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;
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.
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
Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) - For Indigenous Peoples, the Right of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is a requirement, prerequisite and manifestation of the exercise of their fundamental right to Self-determination as defined in international law. Free, Prior and Informed Consent is a fundamental underpinning of Indigenous Peoples’ ability to conclude and implement valid Treaties and Agreements with other parties, to exert sovereignty over their lands and natural resources, to develop and participate in processes that redress and correct violations, to accept any results that emerge from these processes, and to establish the terms and criteria for negotiations with States over any and all matters affecting them.
Citizens guide to World Commission on Dams (WCD) - This Citizens’ Guide to the World Commission on Dams is intended as a tool for people in their struggles for social justice and environmental protection. You can download the WCD Final Report and the Citizens Guide to WCD in our documents page.
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) - The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly on Thursday September 13, 2007. The Declaration is the most comprehensive statement of the rights of indigenous peoples ever developed, giving prominence to collective rights to a degree unprecedented in international human rights law. The adoption of this instrument is the clearest indication yet that the international community is committing itself to the protection of the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples.
The New Constitution of Kenya – The New Constitution in Kenya brings about decentralization and improved checks and balances which will in turn have a profound impact on Kenyan life by bringing government closer to the people, involving citizens (including women) more actively in decision-making, and enhancing transparency and accountability across all parts of government. However, there is a need for the citizens to understand the constitution thus an effort to translate the document to community languages to better their understanding of the constitution and their rights as well as a clear understanding of the framework of their participation in natural resource management.
FoLT is currently undertaking a campaign to highlight to the Kenyan public, legislators, diplomatic missions, donor agencies, development partners and the world at large the possible dangers posed on the lake and its eco-system due to the Gibe III hydroelectric project, which has been deemed threatening to the biodiversity, livelihood, development, and national security in Northern Kenya by the Africa Resources Working Group (ARWG). To learn about the Environmental and Social Impacts of the Proposed Gibe III Hydroelectric Project in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo River Basin, Click Here.
Funded by German and French Embassy - To establish cooperation among the local community, government agencies and non-governmental organizations, and the network of other communities in the Lake Turkana basin in pursuing biodiversity conservation and sustainable natural resource use and management. It would also raise the awareness of the local community about the importance of natural resource and environment conservation.
Governance is the key stone on sound natural resource management. its core principles- accountability; transparency, participation and rule of law should be at the heart at local, national, bi-lateral and multi-lateral levels to ensure decisions that affect natural resources and resource users are well informed and implemented equitably.
With the recent discovery of oil in Turkana County, FoLT remains vigilant as part of our Resource Governance focus. International experience points to challenges which are often faced by resource-rich developing countries in translating mineral wealth into peace and prosperity. Friends of Lake Turkana has taken the mentle of educating the citizens of the oil exploration areas in order for them to take action and dispell the 'resource curse' of violent conflicts, environmental destruction, corruption, untold human hardship, displacements and a devastated future for entire communities. FoLT will also advocate for equitable distribution of oil wealth between the central government and Turkana County.
Read our perspective on oil in Kenya here...
Friends of Lake Turkana is the focal point for the East African Indigenous Peoples (IP) Think Tank which has a mission to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic and environmental issues affecting indigenous peoples of East Africa in both national and international forums.
The goal is to work in coalitions and networks to strengthen social movements, especially as we forge multi-cultural, cross-border and cross-focus area alliances. As a think tank our work is unique (in that we are bringing new approaches to social change including the awareness of economic, social and cultural rights) as we work with grass roots indigenous constituencies and help bridge policy think tanks with activist networks and social movements and strengthen the solidarity and cooperation of indigenous organizations and communities in East Africa.
The think tank engages in 4 main areas of interrelated work to encourage indigenous participate in decision making on issues that affect their lives.
1. Movement and Organizational Strengthening- To facilitate and coordinate priority activities and the implementation of a set of programs as well as to carry out information dissemination work in order to strengthen indigenous women’s movements in East Africa.
2. Capacity Building - to assist the East African IP members and networks in strengthening their capacity and skills to address the challenges they face through building organizations, stronger collective leadership, and better organizational management.
3. Indigenous Women- empowering the indigenous women through networking, education and capacity building activities. One of the objectives of this programme is to promote awareness of indigenous women’s rights for them to be able to effectively participate in decision making at all levels, from their communities, to the national, regional and international levels. It is imperative for the East African IP Think Tank to strengthen the mainstreaming of women’s issues and concerns and ensure greater engagement and participation of indigenous women in all the programme activities,
4. Research - This comparative research builds upon academic research and action-researchers in local networks; both indigenous and non-indigenous to critically inform debates on indigenous and customary rights in legislation and policy, both to facilitate local action platforms and to influence law- and policy-makers
FoLT's Mission is to protect and conserve Lake Turkana, the Lake Turkana Basin and its environment; champion the rights of the Lake's communities and ensure their involvement in decision-making on issues relating to the Lake and its environment; and engage communities in conservation activities within the Lake Turkana Basin and its environs.
FoLT's Vision is: Well informed Lake Turkana Basin communities who have control over their natural resources and their use for economically and environmentally sustainable development.