Lokwamusing, a village in Turkana county of Kenya. Photo Credit/Blandina Bobson

A leaf from my diary- the 13th of February 2019

I am Lokwamusing, a village in Turkana county of Kenya. 

Long ago, some pastoralists came with their herds…I had abundant pasture for their cattle to graze. Some stayed back and some moved on to other places. I am known to be the notorious village, where cattle raiding causes human fatalities. Extreme hunger and poor sanitation conditions of people living on me, have kept me on my toes. Therefore, I am not anyone’s favourite. No one wants to visit me because I am insecure and they don’t want to share the same status by visiting me. But you know, I hear, I might be lucky and get some attention! Reason- I am the middle sibling to my sisters, one who has oil and the other gas. I have nothing, yet, as they say, when you hang around with the rich and the famous, you get noticed.  

I am a mother, living in Lokwamusing.

I saved money and send my daughter to Nairobi University. However, like many of my neighbours, whose daughters came back because they could not pay the fees, I will also have to give up hope.  These educated girls then come back to the village and get picked up by ‘boda-boda’ (motorbike) guys, who take them to the nearest town, Lokichar. This town is now buzzing with outsiders who come for work related to oil and gas. There is ‘demand’. These girls either get pregnant by the ‘boda-boda’ guys or the outsiders. I am worried about my daughter. I do not know what good education does, I have only seen more problems that you educated people bring. If a man from Lokichar comes for our daughter, we will give them as we know they are rich. 

I am the young man of this village.

I with another friend of mine got beaten up by men from our neighbouring village. I was in love with a girl from that village. We were the same people- status, clans, language, all of it. Now with ‘oil find’ in that village, they have received some money from the company. Some of them also got some days of employment. They obviously think that they are richer than us and will be better off. So why give their daughters to us?  With our village being poorer than them, I wonder if they will even come for our sisters.

I am an old woman now.

When I was younger I used to walk to the hills you see that surround Lokwamusing, to collect firewood, but now it is difficult. You see the hills… you cannot see anyone there…, but I can see the guns pointing towards us. The moment one of us starts walking closer to the hill to collect firewood, we will be shot dead. We don’t go there anymore. ‘Oil and gas find’ in the neighbourhood has increased our security threat. I feel it might be a good idea to just migrate to Pokot county and live there, at least I will be safe there.

I am the young energetic pastoralist

I walk kilometres, with my herds to find pasture and water. My life is not important, but my cattle are. As a young kid, I was handed over a gun to protect my herd. No one taught me or my age-mates how to shoot, but we all learn it. With the oil find in our neighbouring villages, mine and for many of us, the challenges have increased. I am no more allowed to take my cattle to the grazing field in those areas, as they have been taken away by the company for oil fields. The regular migratory route I used to walk has now been changed, I travel longer distance in search of pasture, meaning, I stay away from home longer than before. Back home here in Lokwamusing, I leave behind my family, who live in heightened insecurity. I worry for them.

I am one of the oldest mzee (man) in Lokwamusing.

When I did not have a mobile phone, I would still communicate with my age-mates from as far as Kibish in Turkana North. I would communicate by word of mouth, as I met people on the way, I would send greetings as well as messages. Now I have a phone and can connect and communicate easily. But, when I call an old mzee from another location today, there is suspicion. People think I am calling because I want something from them- money? The oil brought money and doubts in people’s minds.

I am a student of Lokwamusing studying in Nairobi.

I hear that there is talk of ‘local content’ in the neighbourhood. I hear that local content aims at leveraging the oil and gas value chain to generate sustained and inclusive growth through economic diversification and employment opportunities.  I hear that all affected by the oil or gas find should be consulted to develop and agree on the local content. I hope it will be true. I just googled to understand more about local content within the extractive sector. According to the World Bank local content usually refers to national participation in the value chain rather than focusing on subnational or municipal level.   I am worried that the people whose land has been taken away for oil fields have not been consulted yet, do I and my community really have a chance? Will I and my community ever benefit from the local content, when even now we are being neglected because we do not have the oil or the gas field? Moreover, why should we be considered if local content will be measured at the national level in any case?

I am the soul of Lokwamusing.

I hear, recently there was a government gazette about land acquisition. I am not sure how correct the information is, but I hear, they will do a cardiac bypass surgery on me and fix stents- they call it pipeline. Seems it is essential to avoid any blockages for the dark, luscious viscous to pass.  Once I have the scar, I know I will have to be extra careful. There will be many, who will show an interest in taking care of me. People living on me say if the company offers them money to give me away, they will ask for Ksh 200,000-300,000 (USD 2,000-3,000). Is that even my worth? I am worried for them, who have lived with me for years, who shared the good and bad times together with me and have never ever calculated my worth, now have to negotiate my price with the company.

I the old woman, the mother, the young boy, the old mzee, the pastoralist, the student, of Lokwamusing …all are waiting silently…to be potentially referred to as IDPs (Internally Displaced People).

Lokwamusing awaits on the brink …for a future of uncertainty…gearing up to write a new story…

Note- This story encapsulates the voices and opinions of people purely on the backdrop of an oil and gas find in Turkana.