Kenyans have welcomed the country’s planned oil exportation with cautious optimism, as President Uhuru Kenyatta told citizens that the country would not allow the resource to turn into a curse for the nation.
Kenyatta on Sunday flagged off the transportation of four lorries of the first batch of crude oil from Ngamia 8 fields in Turkana county in the north of the country for storage at the Kenya Petroleum Refinery, Mombasa.
The move puts the East African nation on the global map as it joins oil producing countries, including Uganda, its neighbor in East Africa. Kenyan leaders and citizens have lauded the nation’s move to start the Early Oil Pilot Scheme.
However, the key concerns are that oil export might worsen security challenges for the East African nation, increase corruption and overall turn out to be a problem as it has happened in other countries in Africa.
In Nigeria and Angola, for instance, oil has become a source of conflict for the two countries, as communities fight over the resource.
“The economies of countries that have failed to manage their resources have also suffered the ripple effect of hunger and poverty among citizens. It is my hope and prayer that together we shall work so that such is not visited upon us,” Kenyatta said on Sunday.
Kenyatta noted that Kenya would do all things possible to avoid getting itself in conflict situations due to oil.
“The negative competition for oil and other natural resources has seen once peaceful countries go to war. Brothers have taken up arms again each other as mothers bury their children with no hope for the future,” he said, warning the Turkanas and the Pokots, two warring communities which live where the oil fields are located, to shun conflict.
Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok called for implementation of a law that would cover how the revenue arising from oil is shared across the country and communities in the region to promote harmony.
Citizens have also raised many questions as awareness on the specifics of the pilot program remains low.
Some citizens wondered why the East African nation was sending oil by road from Turkana to Mombasa yet a pipeline would have been more efficient. Others questioned why the country was exporting crude oil instead of refining it first.
“As we celebrate early oil scheme, we used to refine crude oil many years ago but now that we have our own, the refinery remains closed. We now have to export the crude oil and import the refined one. Someone explain to me,” Adama Said noted on Twitter, where the oil issue was being discussed on Monday.
“I thank God that Kenya is ferrying crude oil from Turkana, if it was refined, I can bet to my last penny that this black gold would be sold in Nairobi by the corrupt,” said James Mutinda.
Some analysts have termed the oil export historic and the best thing to happen in Kenya in its quest to become industrialized.
“I believe with oil, Kenya is lucky as the export starts at a time the country is undertaking various infrastructure projects in quest to become industrialized,” said Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer.
However, he warned that oil is not the only magic bullet that Kenya needs to take off.
“We need to fight corruption so that the oil money does not get lost in the vice. We also need to solve perception of exclusion of some communities from power as this is what may turn oil into a curse,” he said.
Herman Manyora, a linguistics professor and political analyst, asked Kenyan leaders to ensure that Kenya as a country becomes exception by avoiding the oil curse.