Politics, banditry hamper Turkana oil harvest - Daily Nation

Tullow’s headache: politics, banditry hamper oil harvest

Friday July 13 2018

Tullow Oil

An oil rig worker at Ngamia III exploration site in Nakukulas, Turkana. At the moment, Tullow Oil is caught up in the politics of cattle rustling and the historical neglect of the north. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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On March 26, 2012, just after President Mwai Kibaki announced that Kenya had discovered oil in Turkana after 58 years of explorations and drilling, several interests set in.

Six years later, and after Tullow Oil, together with other partners, had sank $1 billion (Sh100 billion), their investment now rests on something they might not have foreseen – the politics of cattle rustling.

So serious is the issue that on Monday, the Minister for Interior Fred Matiang’i announced that the government would set up an ultra-modern camp for the paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU) at Loruk, north of Lake Baringo, to curb the menace.

The insecurity here is complicated by years of small arms flow from Uganda, Somalia and South Sudan and made worse by an organised cattle rustling syndicate that, sources say, exports livestock to the markets in the Middle East.


The Annual State of the Nation Security Report to Parliament stated that, as of April 2016, there were over 650,000 illegal firearms in circulation in Kenya and mainly in northern Kenya, where they were used in cattle rustling business.

Two weeks ago, hundreds of Turkana residents were mobilised to block the Lokichar-Kapenguria road demanding for protection against incessant banditry.

By the end of the day, they had managed to stop the ferrying of the crude oil to storage tanks at the Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited in Mombasa and the trucks had to turn back.

That the Irish oil and gas business, operating in the Lokichar basin, is now caught up in this pandemonium is partly blamed on failure to “communicate openly” and the company is being challenged by civil society groups to hold public hearings with affected communities and members of the public concerning its operations in the area.

“It is not implausible that the current unrest that has led to a halt of the Early Oil Pilot Scheme could have been identified and avoided if a comprehensive ESIA (Environmental and Social Impact Assessment) had been undertaken,” said Odenda Lumumba, the Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas (KCSPOG) chairman.


But the company is afraid that the value of its work in the Turkana basin is diluted by the ceaseless demands.

The demands range from the tangible (jobs for locals) to the obscure (demands for oil revenues to be deposited into individual bank accounts), which highlights the convoluted political atmosphere in the region.

The interruptions are also having an effect on the timelines set by the company which has been financing the operations from its coffers and those of its partners - Africa Oil Corporation and Maersk Oil.

“While we appreciate the views of the community, the shareholders expect a re-turn on their investment – and any disruptions eats into our set timelines,” says Mr Martin Mbogo, the Tullow Oil country manager.


The discovery of oil in an area that was economically neglected and where 88 per cent o