A key developmental challenge is the implementation of an inclusive agenda. Experts have come to refer to this as “growth coupled with equal opportunities.”
The Kenya Human Rights Commission recently launched a report of a fact-finding mission in Lamu County aptly titled “Forgotten in the scramble for Lamu; the Case of the Aweer and the Fisherfolk.”
The report speaks of the lack of government strategy in addressing the livelihood concerns of host communities affected by the Lapsset project. It points to a lack of an inclusive and all-encompassing approach to these developments.
The report posits that oil infrastructure is seemingly being placed at the expense of other viable livelihood options, and may lead to the resource curse where agriculture and other sources of livelihood are sacrificed for the short-term revenues accruing from oil.
The report also says the legal framework is reasonably well developed for the purpose of offering first-line protection to victims and potential victims of development-induced injustices.
However, while the Constitution affirms these protections, the lack of enabling legislation limits these safeguards and there is an urgent need for sound and conclusive legislation and policies, in line with international best practices and standards.
EXCLUSION THREATENS DEVELOPMENT
The report is timely as the new Energy Bill is being discussed, especially as it highlights key areas that need to be addressed: Land and the status of land tenure among communities along the Lapsset Corridor, public participation, transparency, benefit sharing from newfound oil and gas resources and addressing the impact on local communities of oil and oil-related infrastructure.
Kenya, which was largely absent among the oil-producing countries, has now reached a vital juncture in the development of its hydrocarbons industry.
In the short term, we are likely to see increased rather than reduced impacts especially as drilling of wells and oil-related infrastructure are slated to intensify over the coming years.
The plans include the construction of the longest underground and heated pipeline to transport the oil from the Lokichar fields and the bigger Lapsset project that includes the construction of a pipeline linking Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia, the potential building of a refinery at Isiolo or Lamu, alongside the construction of numerous access roads and associated infrastructure.
It is crucial to address the concerns of communities affected either by the production of oil or the development of the infrastructure to ensure that they are part and parcel of the planning, and where possible, can even propose options that have minimal effects on their livelihoods.
The unprecedented speed of the charge towards production brings the challenge of ensuring that all key stakeholders are up to speed. Exclusion will threaten any developments in the sector.
The report proposes that oil revenues should be used to improve agricultural productivity, safeguard the environment, reclaim the cultural heritage of Lamu, and address past injustices that handicap the participation of the host community in a new-look economic dispensation.
Mr Wanguhu is the coordinator for the Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas (KCSPOG), a network of civil society organisations working on oil and gas issues.