Since oil was discovered in Turkana in 2012, new conflicts have developed. Conflicts have initially existed between the Turkana and Pokot communities, over border regions. But with the discovery of oil, residents have developed unrealistically high expectations of what the oil would bring them. With this, lack of public consultation, information and communication have fueled for more tensions thus conflicts.
The locals in Turkana feel left out of the upstream (extraction and production) activities being carried out by Tullow around their area. Could there be an information gap sitting between the locals and Tullow, besides locals and the government? Is it that the level of education of most of the residents is below average? Is the government holding information secret to communities in Turkana?
There could be many channels as to why lack of communication and information has fueled tensions resulting into conflicts. I feel information and communication are quite dependent. Looking at the recent oil sharing agreement by President Uhuru Kenyatta, 5% was set aside for the local community, 25% for the county government and 70% for the national government. As per the previous article on what the oil sharing agreement really means, I touched on the complaints Turkana residents raised through their leader Governor Nanok on why they were not impressed by the declared oil sharing agreement.
They complained of the 5% set aside for the local communities being inadequate, as they wanted 10%. Many people are not aware how much or little the 5% is. From the sound of it, most of the people rush to the conclusion that the percentage is so little, not because they know what it amounts to in figures, but because of the fraction five out of a hundred. This is why information is needful. On the other side, communication is equally critical, as those who are well informed are better placed to trickle this knowledge down to the least of the community members. But sadly it has not been happening as it should be.
Whose mandate is it to share relevant information? Is it Tullow or is it the county government through the elected leaders? According to me the county government should be held more responsible. After all, Tullow is just a company like any other whose main aim is to make profit or ‘do business’. Tullow will ensure to observe company policies, carry out CSR activities, observe environment health and safety standards and would have played their part.
Majoring on the issue of conflicts in the community, Tullow is allegedly said to have shut down all the water boreholes it drilled for the pastoral community. The company has also reportedly stopped its fresh water supply to Turkana residents till further notice. These have come as consequences of the protests by the residents on security concerns among other areas of conflict as fore-mentioned.
There is a problem. A problem which the Turkana community and Tullow cannot solve single handedly. The county government has to come in and bring matters to rest. As it is currently, Tullow has threatened to shut down its operations in two weeks, as the protests have paralyzed their day-to-day activities. The existing gap between these parties has to be bridged. A clear mechanism by the leaders has to be drawn to tackle this matter. We will not lose lives to the security britches ongoing in the region.