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Interior Ministry seeks talks with Turkana leaders over oil dispute

Turkana residents on Wednesday blocked the Lokichar-Kapenguria road stopping trucks ferrying crude oil to Mombasa disrupting the oil evacuation exercise launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta on June 3/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 30 – Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi has said the government is engaging leaders from Turkana to resolve an emerging dispute between residents and Tullow Oil which has hampered the evacuation of crude oil from the county.

Matiangi who spoke during an inspection tour of the Police Air Wing at Wilson Airport on Friday said the government was determined to end the stalemate to ensure the ongoing Early Oil Pilot Scheme proceeds undisrupted.

“I’m very concerned about what is happening in Turkana. We’re following the situation very closely and we’ll reach out to the leaders of that part of the country so that we can find an amicable solution,” he announced.

Turkana residents on Wednesday blocked the Lokichar-Kapenguria road stopping trucks ferrying crude oil to Mombasa disrupting the oil evacuation exercise launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta on June 3.

Addressing the residents on Friday, Turkana South lawmaker James Lomenen blamed Tullow Oil of short changing locals by denying them jobs.

“You cannot serve your neighbour’s child with a meal when your own child is starving! Turkana people must be granted their rights, they must be given jobs, they must be respected, they must be given contracts, the State must protect them,” he thundered.

Lomenen also raised concerns over what he said was continued pollution of the environment.

“We don’t want a situation where oil waste is dumped without following due procedure,” he said.

Similar concerns were voiced by his Turkana East counterpart Mohammed Ali.

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“They (government) are rushing here to collect oil which is our birthright – it is in our land. As we stated earlier, this oil will never leave this place. That is our stand,” the Turkana East legislator said.

Oil exploration in Turkana oil fields commenced in 2012, the June 3 launch of Early Oil Pilot Scheme making a significant step in the country quest towards becoming an oil producing nation.

Under the of Early Oil Pilot Scheme, 2,000 barrels of oil were set to be transported to Mombasa by road per day from where the crude oil will be shipped.

The scheme was launched following a deal reached between the national government and the Turkana county government on May 19 when President Kenyatta signed into law the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Bill that provided for the allocation of five per cent of oil revenues to local communities.

Under the law, the National Government would take 75 per cent of oil revenues whereas the county government retains 20 per cent.

“We now have an understanding that can put Kenya on the map of oil exporting countries. We will intensify our exploration efforts not just in Turkana but in the rest of the country now that we have a legal instrument that can help guide how oil and gas will be handled in our republic,” the President said following the agreement.

Speaking at State House following the agreement, Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok who was accompanied by local leaders commended committed to supporting the early oil evacuation exercise.

“The impediment that the Turkana people were concerned with and even the council of Governors raised in its petition to Parliament has now been discussed and resolved,” said the governor.

He later joined President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto in flagging off the first trucks ferrying oil to Mombasa.

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