Kenya Next for ‘The Curse of Oil’?
Part of the underlying story of Kony 2012 is the discovery of large oil fields in the region of Uganda that Joseph Kony once dominated. Uganda hopes that the revenues from that oil can help transform the country.
Now Kenya thinks it may also be on the brink of discovering oil.
Exploration drilling has started in the Kerio Valley and Turkana regions in the northeast. This region — badly hit by the East African drought — is traditionally owned by tribal peoples. But that ownership, as with most of Africa, is not legally recognized for those tribes. Instead, it is ‘held in trust’ for them by the state.
In Uganda, local people, and in particular those whose existence depends on local lakes and rivers, have suffered a lot. Many people have been driven off their land. Some have received compensation, others have not. Most of the affected individuals live in villages. They are poor, but rather than benefiting from the discovery of oil near their homes, their livelihoods are ruined. Where others see business opportunities, these villagers end up as the losers.
In Kenya, the government have said that will work closely with the British firm involved in Kerio Valley and Turkana to ensure that interests of the communities are taken care of and that those communities “will be involved in the entire process.”
French and Chinese firms are also involved elsewhere in exploration.
Where test drilling has just started in Kenya, one of the western firms involved has been accused of bribing Ugandan officials.
Writes Africa expert Andrew Meldrum:
The discovery of oil and gas could be a boon to Kenya’s economy. However the new wealth from the resources could also become more spoils for looting by politicians. The curse of oil in Africa is well known. The oil earnings tend to fuel corruption and misgovernance, rather than help the average person.
Photo credit: geograph