26 March 2012

Kenya: Activists Hail Oil Find, Urge Locals' Input

Economists have begun breaking down the expected impact of Monday's announcement of Kenya's discovery of promising oil deposits in Turkana County. ... ( Resource: Kenya: Economic Impact of Oil Discovery )

Activists have described the historic discovery of oil in Turkana County as one that would develop this arid area of Kenya that has suffered marginalisation over the years.

Lion Lepalo, Executive Director of Save Lake Turkana Project, a Non-Governmental Organisation that has championed opposition to a planned hydro power project that could strain water flow into Lake Victoria from River Omo, said on Monday that the discovery would benefit the locals in provision of social amenities.

"We will have provision of services that will mean schools, networks, bursaries; it will mean everything that an ordinary Kenyan will need for their lives to move on," Lepalo told Capital FM News.

He however said the government should put in place strategies that would ensure community involvement as well as conserve the environment there.

"It will not be without hiccups, but once the community is sensitised and brought on board and people like us are involved as well, I don't foresee a problem but the government will have to educate the masses and let them know what is at stake here and how they can benefit," he emphasised.

He added that the government should not sit and make decisions from Nairobi without involving the locals who would now have a chance to rebuild their lives.

On the concerns that this could heighten insecurity in an already volatile county that is characterised by cattle rustling and infighting over scarce resources, Lepalo said that was a "small issue" that the government could handle.

"We have had such discoveries in Africa like in Nigeria where people in the Niger Delta up to date have always had arguments that their needs have not been met but I hope our country will not have the same problems because we have learnt from other places," he said.

The discovery was announced by President Mwai Kibaki on Monday afternoon during the release of government performance contracting results in Nairobi.

"Tullow Oil which has been prospecting for oil in block 10BB in Turkana County discovered oil in Ngamia 1 Well at a depth of between 846 and 1,041 meters," the president announced.

"To establish the commercial viability of this oil, they are to drill multiple wells. This is the first time Kenya has made such a discovery and it is very good news for our country," said the Head of State.

However, it would take up to three years to commercialise the oil according to Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi.

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