Kenya announced today that it had discovered oil deposits in its arid Northern region of Turkana. These deposits, possible bigger than those of local rival Uganda, may be an excellent economic opportunity for the country and a big boost to regional co-operation. However, Kenya must be careful of jumping to readily on the first offer that comes along. The example of the Niger Delta shows what can happen if oil companies take control of an area.
The people of the Delta have been systematically repressed, economically disenfranchised and often face violence and even death for going up against the international oil giants present in the region. The use of militias and PMCs to defend the oil production, a vital part of the Nigerian economy, has had terrible consequences. Little or no law governs the actions of either the companies or the PMCs meaning that the peoples rights are often ignored and their voices silenced. Environmentally the Niger Delta has been transformed in places from a thriving natural habitat into a toxic, stripped out mess where the traditional owners of the land can't live or farm.
This is an extreme place for Kenya to end up but it should act as a small warning to Kenya. By all means use this golden economic opportunity but be careful not to be so dazzled by the oil wealth that you forget your own people or their environment. Doing so may cost you more than a few constrictions on oil production and a bit of accountability.