Tensions over Crude Profits as Kenya Enters League of Oil Exporting Countries

Louise Sjöblom | Wed, 28 Aug 2019

President Uhuru Kenyatta, courtesy of Wikicommons

Kenya has exported its first crude oil with the maiden shipment of 250,000 barrels leaving the port in Mombasa on Monday 26th of August. This follows a deal signed a few weeks earlier with the oil trading company ChemChina LTD, signalling a new milestone for Chinese interest in the country. Although full commercial production is years away, the inaugural shipment revealed tensions over how the nation’s crude oil wealth should be divided.

 Oil was first found in Kenya in 2012 in the northern region Turkana and it is expected that the fields hold 560 million barrels of oil. Turkana has been the poorest region in Kenya for years, with many relying on agriculture and farming. However, the interest in the region has increased in the past decade as the possibilities for mineral exploration and extraction of groundwater and oil have been discovered. The discovery of oil reserves in particular also heightened expectations that local communities would benefit from the spur of development. More than seven years have passed since, and Turkana still struggle with the same problems as access to healthcare is limited, roads are poor and 79 in every 100 people in the region are unable to afford a meal.

 President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Petroleum Act of 2019 into law earlier this year, which allocates 75% of state revenues to the central government, 20% to local governments and 5% to the people living where the oil was found. The growing tensions regarding the division of oil revenue were apparent during the send-off ceremony in Mombasa when Peter Emuria Lotethiro, Deputy Governor of Turkana County, expressed his dissatisfaction with the Act and used the metaphor of a goat to claim what he considers his region’s fair share.

“According to our culture as the Turkana people, when we slaughter a goat for a visitor, the owner of the goat must be left with the limbs,” Lotethiro said. “The people of Turkana have instructed me that in this oil deal, the limb should be ours”.

President Kenyatta responded briefly to the governor's remarks and went on to highlight his ongoing campaign against corruption, stating that a piece of the goat should reach every Kenyan.

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