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How to balance national and public interest

OPINION
By Mbatau wa Ngai | August 21st 2018

The crisis facing Tullow Oil in Turkana ought to jolt the government into taking a hard look at the laws governing the exploitation of natural resources and communities’ land rights.

A review of these laws would tame attempts by individuals to advance personal interests disguised as community interests.

This often leads to conflicts that deny communities the benefits derived from the exploitation of the natural resources found in their area.

It is incontestable that the politicisation of coal mining in Kitui has led to delays in its commercialisation, and the local community is the biggest loser.

There are indications that investments such the Amu Power project may be forced to import coal of inferior quality from Mozambique or South Africa in the event that the wrangles holding up the mining are not resolved quickly.

The hurdles by communities along the Loyangalani Suswa transmission line that will carry power generated at the Lake Turkana Wind Power plant threatens to delay the project further.

It heartening that the State had to pay investors Sh5.1 billion for delays caused by the Spanish contractor who abandoned the project after being declared bankrupt back home.

Making headlines

To learn that public coffers may be raided again because landowners are insisting on being paid Sh5 million for an idle acre for land may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The story making headlines is the stand-off between the locals around Lokichar in Turkana, the State and Tullow on the evacuation of crude oil to Mombasa in readiness for export. The latest surprise is that locals have been upping stakes no sooner than its earlier demands were met. What is perplexing is that an MP’s assertion that he would petition the State to withdraw Tullow’s contract if it fails to ‘behave’.

It seems the MP and leaders are not aware of how multinationals and their governments behave on wanton breaches of contract. The oil majors are known for doing whatever is necessary to defend their turf.

The sorry state of the Venezuelan economy is a testimony of how a country can wreck its present and future by attempting to place impossible demands on oil majors.

The current stand-off in Turkana offers a good opportunity for all the parties involved to agree on what is possible or impossible to get from the oil.

In the event that the country needs to pass new legislation or amend existing ones so be it.

[Mbatau wa Ngai, [email protected]]

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