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.

Uganda is one of the world’s most corrupt nations, so there is every possibility it will suffer the fate of Nigeria, where massive oil revenues have not benefited the people but just the few.

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.

But corruption is a very serious problem in Kenya, with an ongoing major scandal centered on the National Oil Corporation of Kenya (Nock).

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.

Relates stories:

New Chevron Oil Leak Off the Coast of Brazil

Uganda’s Oil Extraction, Another Human Tragedy

Oil Lobby Says Obama’s Call To End Big Oil Handouts Is ‘Discriminatory’

Photo credit: geograph


Sandi C.
Sandi C5 years ago


KS Goh
KS Goh5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Vanessa A.

Oh no, the money hungry cheapskates will be ringing their doorbells soon.

Jill R.
Jill R.6 years ago

If the Chinese are involved then not only will they steal the oil but they will kill every animal within a 100 mile radius. I hope they don't find Oil in Kenya.

SeattleAnn S.
Ann S6 years ago

Well, when the world's oil resources are close to depletion, there will be a very expensive race by oil companies to invest more into alternative energy sources. At least they will then be forced to release their findings instead of stifling them and pretending like there's no viable alternative.

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y6 years ago

Being enslaved to raw materials is the curse of Africa. The challenge for the continent is to develop manufacturing bases that can produce industrial goods and truly lift the people out of poverty. Another key reform is sharing production benefits with local communities, as has been done with wildlife reserves in many places.

Carole C.
Carole Chowen6 years ago

If anyone is not aware of it, look what Shell has done in the Niger Delta. It makes the BP spill look small, and it has been going on for decades. People poisoned, the environment destroyed, and even "suspected" murder of protesters. Yet it does not make headlines in our country, it's "over there....". I hope the wells drilled in Kenya are dry.

Mike Barnes
Michael Barnes6 years ago

In the longer term, it will be bad for us as well. One more reason to delay the transition to renewable, sustainable energy.

Leslea Herber
Leslea Herber6 years ago

For Kenya's sake, I hope they tap out & don't have oil. It's the WORST thing that could happen to them.

J.L. A.
JL A6 years ago

May the government of Kenya show more wisdom, courage and morality should the oil become real than was true in Uganda.