Kenya’s ambition to become one of the global oil producers was boosted Sunday after the flagging off of transportation of the first oil barrels.
President Uhuru Kenyatta led a host of local leaders to celebrate the feat that enabled the country to join Uganda as the only two oil-producing nations in East Africa.
In a historic occasion held at Ngamia 8 oil fields in Lokichar, Turkana East, the President flagged off four trucks ferrying crude oil to the Kenya Petroleum Refinery in Mombasa.
The crude oil is being ferried in an experimental programme dubbed Early Oil Pilot Scheme. The resource will be kept in Mombasa as the country looks for viable markets.
Each truck carried 156 barrels. Tullow Oil company targets producing at least 2,000 barrels per day.
It already has 70,000 barrels stored in tanks in Lokichar.
There are at least 10 oil fields located in various sections in Turkana East and Turkana South.
Aware of the protracted disagreement on how the proceeds should be distributed, President Kenyatta warned of the curses that might come with the resource, but also promised that all concerns raised by residents will be attended to.
"The economies of countries that have failed to manage their resources have also suffered the ripple effect of a hungry and poor citizen. It is my hope and prayer that together we shall work so that such is not visited upon us," he said.
Without mentioning names, Mr Kenyatta said two countries have experienced the painful side of the mineral, saying the country would do everything possible to avoid similar situations.
"The negative competition for oil and other natural resources has seen hitherto two peaceful countries go to war. It has seen brothers take up arms again each other as mothers bury their children with no hope for the future," he said.
Nigeria and Angola are countries where fights have erupted because of disagreements over oil proceeds.
"I pray that we will view the discovery of oil and gas as a blessing that we will manage effectively and efficiently for the benefit of not just the present generation but importantly future generation.
"I call upon our leaders to ensure peace and stability in the region to ensure any disagreements that might arise are resolved in an amicable and sustainable manner. I stand ready to work with all leaders to ensure that we achieve this."
Deputy President William Ruto said they would not turn away from the grievances raised by the locals.
"You have a friend in us because we listen to you," Mr Ruto said.
He added that the government has scrapped the capping of the proceeds after listening to community's concerns.
Petroleum and Mining Cabinet Secretary John Munyes said it is a "momentous time for Kenya" as it exports oil from East Africa; and that the economy will be emboldened by oil proceeds.
Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok emphasised the importance of putting in place a comprehensive law that would guide how money allocated to the county and the host community would be spent.
"We will talk to the residents in the next few weeks and get back to you (President) on how the money allocated to us will be used. We would also like that to be covered in the law," the county boss said.
From the proceeds, the government will remain with 75 per cent; 25 per cent will go to the county government and five per cent to the community where the oil fields are.
The oil was discovered in March 2012 and it has taken close to seven years to extract the first barrels.