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Turkana residents have a dispute worth our attention

By letters | October 29th 2013 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Kenya: Ever since residents of Turkana County held demonstrations over alleged discrimination in hiring of workers at the Tullow Oil wells, many Kenyans have come out to criticise them and give them all sorts of bad names.

However, before we throw stones at them for being ‘uncivilised’, we need to put ourselves in their shoes for a moment. Here, we are talking of a community that has been marginalised since independence and when they thought, at last, God has remembered them, the ugly head of ‘bad leadership’ creeps in to spoil their party. These residents are genuinely bitter.

We must agree oil discovery in Turkana came as a good surprise. However, going by the complaints raised, Tullow Oil Company, an investor drilling the Turkana’s ‘black gold’, started on a rather wrong footing when it took community engagement as a box-ticking exercise. A rather loud arrogance and a don’t care attitude became morepronounced every time Tullow officials met with the community representatives for round tables. It is also claimed, at some point, they indicated they were receiving orders from ‘above’!

If the claims are true, Tullow’s approach is an indicator the community interests could not be accommodated.

No one should think I am advocating for violence, but there are deep-seated problems in this engagement that the government and state security agencies as well as Tullow cannot afford ignore.

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{Lore Ambrose Ekunoit, Lokitaung}

We watched on TV as residents of Turkana, armed with crude weapons, demonstrated and threaten people’s lives over alleged discrimination in hiring at the Tullow oil wells in their backyard.

What interested me most was a question by one of the protesters who wondered why “even cleaning jobs were being given to foreigners”. I was hard pressed to imagine there were Ghanaians or Norwegians coming to Kenya to do cleaning or tea-girl jobs in Turkana. I later realised it was not foreigners as I thought, but ‘foreigners from within.

However, the ‘hard working and highly-educated’ Turkana youth holding bows and arrows should not have been allowed to scare Tullow staff to a point that the drilling had to be temporarily halted and expatriates evacuated for lack of security.

This puts the youth and other gangs like the Mombasa Republican Council on the same level as agents of insecurity.

Our security agencies should not allow this group to be our equivalent of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

{Emmanuel Bahati Ngala, Malindi}

It is easy to dismiss residents of Turkana for paralysing the activities of Tullow Oil Company, but they deserve a hearing. We may question their mode of airing grievances but their concerns are logical. These area residents should be the immediate beneficiaries and should never be ignored.

{Daniel Misiani, Maseno University}

Turkana County Tullow Oil plc oil exploration
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