Oil discovery in Turkana
The most marginalized Turkana population sees a new dawn of hope as oil is discovered in the region
Oil has been discovered in south Turkana near Lokichar, a rural town between Kainuk and Lodwar which is about 25km from Lodwar on the highway to Kitale in Northwestern Kenya. The black gold, as it is referred to, was discovered near Kalapat and Kodekode villages, approximately 20km from Lokichar town, at a site called Ngamia 1.
The region has been neglected by the government for a long time. This is due to its inability to yield agriculture products as it falls in the semi-desert region. That’s why it was left behind by other counties in terms of development and infrastructure. The local inhabitants are nomads and pastoralists who are much at risk in the event of a dry spell. Poverty, illiteracy and unemployment are all high amongst them. After the refugee camp was established at Kakuma, hundreds of local Turkana households moved to Kakuma town and near the refugee camp settlement.
The discovery of oil is sure to transform the whole of the Turkana region. The question is how far it will benefit the host community, refugees, and the nation as a whole. Locally, hopes are very high. The residents are optimistic that with the development of infrastructure their lifestyle will take a new course. “This is a blessing of shower to our land and people,” said Ekutan, a local shepherd.
Youths who are unemployed are also optimistic that job opportunities are on the way. At the moment it has been reported that the recruitment of workers has already started, while several construction and oil extraction companies are competing for the business. “At the moment there’re already two wells dug. Oil resource will be a national wide development. Bi-lateral understandings with investors are already on,” Turkana District Information Officer told KANERE.
An oil company from Britain was the first to arrive but China also wants to get involved building on their earlier investment in Kenya, while some people from the government would also want to bring in private investors. “There are a lot of competing interests. Everyone wants to have an investor,” said the Information Officer.
A company called ARDAN is involved in the preparation of the site in the beginning where oil will soon start to be extracted from the Ngamia 1 well. Businesses are booming in Lokichar and even other sectors are upcoming.
There are also hopes that the road from Kitale to Lodwar is going to be repaired. This road, known as the north western corridor, connects Kitale and Lodwar with Lokichoggio and forms a highway into South Sudan. It has been seriously affected by the meanderings of seasonal rivers and is in a very poor state leading to many road accidents over the years. This has also cut down transportations including relief supplies to Kakuma refugee camp. With a good road, schools, hospitals and other public and social amenities are likely to crop up. The most important of all issues in the region is the jobs created because many youths will have a reason to smile. “There will be skilled jobs that will ensure that majority of the residents will have something to do,” a local counselor told KANERE.
Nationally, it is heard that the government will put in place strategies to enhance the proper exploitation of the oil. Once it is marketed in the near future, the high price of fuel in the country should be reduced to the benefit of all.
KANERE’s good will and wishes for the hungry population will remain high.