Words from Kenya

Oil and Water in Turkana

Herders in northern Turkana

People fight wars over oil and it is predicted that in the near future people will fight wars over water. There is now evidence to suggest that the remote, arid Turkana district in the north west of Kenya has both.

Turkana district, especially the northern half, is very poor, politically marginalised and with little in the way of infrastructure. It is peopled largely by nomadic and semi nomadic pastoralists whose skills and traditional knowledge enable them to live, without the aid of modern technology, in an incredibly harsh land and alongside often hostile neighbours. Here men feel naked without a gun and encroachment on the scarce resources needed for life by people from neighbouring countries, districts or tribes regularly results in gun fights and loss of life. The people who live in Turkana tend to be tough and resourceful but few have even a basic level of what the developed world calls education.

So what are the chances that these people, citizens of a country that ranks so high in all reports on corruptions, will benefit from nature’s largesse lying underneath the land they live on? Perhaps simply not benefiting will be the safest outcome. Perhaps the more relevant question is what are the chances that such valuable commodities will bring increased tension and bloodshed to the people who live in Turkana?

Amazing as it is the miracle is not, I think, that such quantities of oil and water have been found beneath the Turkana soil. The miracle will be it benefiting the people who live there and it aiding peace, rather than abetting conflict in the region.

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