Oil Governance in Lake Turkana: “If ‘we the people’ don’t stand up for our collective interest, no one else will do it for us”


but what if the best and only solution will be to:


Looking back at 2013-2016 (SV)


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 of Government 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

Source: Friends of Lake Turkana


REVISED Version – Three Years Later, Reflecting and Learning

Three years later  and we ask ourselves should we really ask oil producing countries to avoid hydro carbon development to the maximum extent possible, or should we better ask governments to keep the oil in the soil?

Why Should we Ask African Governments to Keep the Oil in the Soil?

“If governments are determined to implement their climate policies [eg. Paris Agreement], a focus on efficiency, although important, will not achieve absolute reductions. According to the UK’s Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, part of the London School of Economics, the world’s ‘carbon budget’ is about 1.000 gigatons (Gt CO2) between now and 2050.

Total proven international fossil-fuel reserves already contain about 3 times as much carbon, according to the International Energy Agency’ ‘World Energy Outlook’. Most of the reserves are owned by governments or state energy firms; they could be left in the ground by public-policy choice, i.e., if governments took their own policy objectives seriously. Exploring and exploiting new sources of fossil fuels now means to propel CO2 emissions above 550 ppm. It is an irresponsible waste of money, and policy is called upon to stop this squandering of resources.

Oil and gas extraction, and coal mining, even using the most modern techniques, will always be dirty business. There is no ethical, environmental or social justification for mobilising reserves with above-average environmental and social impacts, including deep sea oil, tar sands, or fracking for shale gas, destroying riverine delta ecosystems and other wetlands, densely populated farmland, biodiverse forests or coral gardens.”

Source EJOLT