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Why Turkana people must benefit first from oil, water

By - | October 1st 2013 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

The good news is in. Turkana is the place to be with its huge water reservoir and plenty of oil to boot. 

Natural resources are in plenty and the future is bright for Turkana. Initially, nobody really seemed to care about the region. It was known for all the bad and ugly reasons. Even those who had never reached Rift Valley had something to say about Turkana.

Drought, famine, poor infrastructure, lack of communication facilities, impassable roads, illiterate people, poor security, thin cattle and malnourished children were almost synonymous with Turkana region. It was a land where nothing good could come from. Or so, we thought. All this might change in the not so distant future.

Natural water reservoirs in a place known to be arid is news too exciting to ignore. Thanks to 21st century technology, Ngamia One is now a term that is familiar even to small children. Oil will definitely make Kenya among the richest countries in Africa.

But this begs the question; did the water and the oil just come out of the blue? Is it a coincidence that the resources were discovered almost the same time? Nah! Turkana had been forgotten almost totally and entirely. Apart from being acknowledged to be within Kenya and cherished for adding to the territory of the country, nothing more happened or seemed to matter.

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The people of Turkana have gone through unspeakable suffering: Hundreds of residents have been killed or kidnapped by Ethiopian raiders, cattle rustlers from neighbouring communities have worsened the situation and food security is far-fetched. Residents have seen the worst of famines and survived the grimmest of droughts.

The colonial government ignored them. It is not surprising that they thought Turkana would inflict maximum pain and suffering on freedom fighters including Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

The first post-colonial government did not do any better; in fact the only main road in the region is the Trans-African road running from South Africa to Cairo. Whether it was by chance or design that the road passed through Turkana, is debatable. The country enjoyed the fruits of independence and it did so at the expense of Turkana.

The Kibaki government came to power in 2002 and the country had great expectations. By the time he left, the problems of the Turkana people remained with them as always. The only time we saw our politicians touring the northern frontier was during political campaigns. 

The last few years have seen a commendable rise in the exploration activities in the country.  This has come with immense benefits for Turkana and the country at large. The question we should be asking is: Could we have possibly made the lives of Turkana people better much earlier? Could we have discovered the oil and much needed water much earlier? Is it because of our ignorance as a nation that the Turkana people had to suffer so much?

Turkana people must be the greatest beneficiaries of their resources. They suffered alone, they should eat the most.

        {Dennis Omondi Otieno, Nairobi}

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta Turkana Kenya
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