#TurkanaOil: “Is Finding Oil Ever A Good Thing?”

UPDATE: “We found oil in a hopeless place” by dilliemusic

So apparently they’ve struck oil in Turkana. The findings are in many ways preliminary, seeing as it will take years to properly assess the quantities and a bit longer to really start drilling; but our government seems to be optimistic that our reserves are bigger than Uganda’s.

Which puzzles me.

Out of sheer curiosity, when has finding oil in an African country EVER been a good thing?

I see the obvious benefit in that it will boost the economy in a multitude of ways, and it’ll drive the economy north-western which is quite necessary in this day and age, but on a large scale it seems hazardous.

(c) Guardian

Ignoring the obvious western influence – you know, how certain countries may decide that it’s the right time to attack certain terrorist groups as they drill and pump our mother Kenya shamelessly – there’s a more…local threat. Our government is a lot more shameless than those aforementioned warmongers. If we found 3 billion barrels worth for example, it’s safe to assume we’d only report 2 and only sell one, and 70% of that money would get lost through some nimble accounting. So really we’re banking on all the other byproducts that would benefit us; i.e. lower fuel prices, boosting rural economies, transport infrastructure, international interests, yada yada. But all these things have always just turned into more avenues of corruption for the government.

So in every which way, I can see why the government is psyched about this.

Further, the company that found the oil, Tullow, seems like they would stand to gain the most. Their stock has already started booming and looks to do nothing but grow in time.

via @mmnjug

So I get why they’re excited.

But for the rest of us, why should we celebrate so prematurely? If anything, shouldn’t we be scared and wary? I’m not proclaiming to be some sort of expert. Far from it. All I do is read books and occasionally watch the news. And from that cursory stance, the history of abuse of natural resources and the violence that follows the discovery of such seems like great cause for concern.

I applaud those who maintain positivity in knowing this and hoping that Kenya will be the first oil success story in Africa. And with cautious yet reluctant optimism I join them in hoping that our new government will handle this matter with dignified responsibility and that we should prosper from it immensely.

But in the interest of fairness, who really thinks that’s possible?

16 thoughts on “#TurkanaOil: “Is Finding Oil Ever A Good Thing?”

  1. I share the same trepidation. I am scared of what may follow. But I hope the warmongers continue to view Kenya as a safe zone in spite of, but even more so, I am really scared of what these Western imperialists will do to us. All the pillage and plunder from other resource rich African countries serving as a warning. And the poor, innocent people of Turkana will be none the better, or richer for it. If Kenya continues to serve as a safe zone then the war mongers will not let Kenya go to war.

  2. I am the only optimistic one I guess. I have a great feeling we will rise above other African failures. Not all that happens in Africa follows a specific pre-defined path. See Senegals election. The west predicted doom.

      • in 1988 the then president announced at the university of Nairobi that we had found oil. We wer all excited!!! I hpe this time its not a hoax again. Our well to do should think more Kenyan and avoid rushing to fill their pockets.

  3. I understand where you are coming from. There is that quiet undertone…… of resource curse….! Can Kenyan be a lesson to Africa on how to utilise resources wealth? I don’t know…! But we must hope.

    I stated elsewhere that Kenya is a diversified economy at the moment…Agriculture, manufacturing, transport, retail, horticulture, sports, tourism, technology…… so I don’t think, oil can be a curse that much…….. but it is just a hope.

    With a new constitution, we can hope that it will guide us well…….within its confines and usher in prosperity. But my excitement is in Turkana….. look at the irony, Turkana is home to potentially the Africa’s largest wind farm…..and now oil find. LAPSSET gets into Kenya from SSudan there….. In other words, Turkana is the now the first-among-equals of Kenya’s counties!

    God save Kenya!

  4. I wish (fervently) that we will not end up like our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and Angola. I don’t know how Ghana is fairing, it may take a few years to see the effects of oil there but preliminary reports: not so good.

    I get the trepidation, after all western multi-nationals and China (check Sudan) swoop in knowing we have weak checks and balances in our governments and very corrupt officials, much to the detriment of African citizens. BUT, let us not be defeatist. Kenya is a country with a reasonably well educated population, it is our raia duty to look out for our brothers and sisters in Turkana and make sure they are not taken advantage of, our environment is not degraded and the money is well spent.

    Is this not what we have been screaming about during this whole #kony2012 scenario? Give us a chance to change ourselves before you pretty white boys come and “save” us? Well here is our chance.

  5. Ok, please pardom my cynicism but just indulge me. Please! Thank you
    As the state of affairs stand, this oil find will never bring any meaningful development to you and me the common Kenyans, leave alone the local Turkanas residing in the soon-to-be oilfields. The motley that constitutes Kenya’s politburo is such a brazenly corrupt, shamelessly kleptocratic, common mongers of internecine and parochial discord and always placing their selfish decadent interest before the country’s. As you have said it, oil finds in Africa have never yield rosy tales – especially in relation to the common citizens. The only hope is that on average, Kenya’s economy is highly diversified and hence it may be able to withstand the subtle vagaries that come with commodities trading that are common in African economies dependent in single resources.
    The hope is that as @mmnjug has quoted elsewhere, Kenya’s resilient economy, new katiba and an educated (though highly ethnic) populace may cause the natural resources to be a blessing to all of us. The key factor here is that all of us Kenyans, me you and that person standing in the mirror to keep the authorities at check at all time.

  6. I take this piece as a reality check, much different from the party #KOT is currently having on Twitter while thanking the gods for this discovery. You’ve pinpointed the things that are likely to go wrong now that Tullow’s discovered we posses one of the world’s most precious commodities – oil. I certainly agree with you, and my creative mind can conjure up even worse images of our future. That’s where my heart sinks. There’s an evident futility in your piece (and some tweets I’ve read). Like “Sit down folks. We all know how this story goes. It’s a downward spiral from here. ”

    In as much as it’s true (could be true) that all these scary things you mention, KOT mentions and I imagine, could happen, we seem to have accepted our fate. We seem to have accepted the course of history that such discoveries take and worse still, we seem to have accepted that there’s nothing we can do to change this course. “Like, it happened for country X, it’s definitely going to happen to us.”

    We are so eager to point out “the obvious” and let the world know that we are very aware and ready for what will happen from here on and how much we will lose in the end. Sadly, we won’t even spend some time thinking- how can things turn out differently for us? How can we ignore the shameless warmongers? How can we chop off the hands of the corrupt politicians?

    It’s not easy. Trust me, I feel the hopelessness that you’ve expressed in this piece (perhaps that’s why I choose to engage in this empty celebration, if just to make myself feel better in spite of all the wrong things in this country and the world at large.)

    But why spend so much time re-affirming these wrong things? Putting the writing on the wall, for the warmonger and the politician, saying what he’d dare not say to the masses?

    My dear brother, our fate is sealed. We get that. The oil may come with war and death. But what can we do about that? We can’t exactly move the oil. Yes we know the oil will not be ours.., just like “the land” has never been ours. But does that mean we walk away peacefully and dare not look back?

    • You couldn’t have put it better. We have a choice…..to learn from others and look at this resource and declare it will be for our benefit, or look at it and walk away……think, what could have been.

      I am optimistic, that this will be beneficial to us…….in the short and long term.

  7. I believe it our duty as Kenyans to gaurd our resourse jelously. Lets take to task those who are put incharge of our wealth and elect good leaders who can handle the pressure of being the head of stateof an oil producing country.

  8. “We” didn’t discover oil. Tullow Oil did.

    If you are a shareholder, good on you. If not, remain secure in the knowledge that Tullow will sell us oil to make a profit. It is not an NGO nor is it a parastatal. The GoK will step in and tax the hell out of them for your benefit so anyone expecting free oil is likely to be disappointed.

    I agree with @Coldtuskers sentiments on Twitter, I wish they found it after the elections, I’d hate for this find to be tainted by bogus campaign propaganda.

  9. The Turkana should enroll as many people in school as they possibly can, right now. It is not too long before they could be branded terrorists, warriors, etc. The Maasai Mara, what has it done for the average Maa person? Yani, oil will be different?

  10. The curse of the BLACK GOLD. No African country has managed to survive the curse of this black liquid. Only Libya was on the pathway to survival before the US through NATO decide to anhilliate Gaddafi in the pretence of a Revolution. The Islamists who took over are even much more worse. Watch as Africa’s leading economy tumbles…

    On Tullow Oil, kudos to them. But now the challenge we have as a country is how do we steer clear of politics? As of Yesterday already we saw 800m Kenya Bob scandal being born.. An Oildenberg perhaps on the making… If we only get a leader in this country that will steer clear of Oil Politics we will benefit.. At the current trend however #TurkanaOil is bound to get Nastier…

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