The standoff over transportation of crude oil from Turkana to Mombasa has now lasted one month.
Losses have hit Sh800 million. Turkana South MP James Lomenen yesterday said although there are negotiations to end the standoff, it might take long because of the “hard stance” by British oil firm Tullow.
He accused the firm of mistreating the local community after it demanded jobs, security and a stake in the oil business.
Lomenen said they rejected an MoU prepared by Tullow and the government last week because it did not address the community’s demands.
“They [Tullow] are holding the government at ransom with their own decisions. Tullow should behave like investors and not act as if they are the government here,” he said.
Lomenen said the firm sacked more local workers and blocked residents from using water points developed as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility.
“We will continue to dialogue until they understand we are just as important stakeholders as they are,” he said.
Petroleum CS John Munyes defended Tullow and the government, saying the issues raised by the community would be resolved soon.
He said 600 extra security officers have been deployed to improve safety and support transportation of crude oil to Mombasa.
Residents have blocked tanks ferrying oil from Ngamia 8 in Lokichar to Mombasa.
Area MPs have said the government and Tullow should give residents jobs and provide security.
“We are committed to dialogue to end this dispute. We know oil is a resource for the whole country, but residents should not be ignored. They should be given priority,” Turkana East MP Mohammed Lokiru said.
The demonstrators demanded the trucks be driven back to Africa Camp Solutions from Lokichar town.They said they want jobs, tenders, security and the community’s share of proceeds from the oil.
Tullow country manager Martin Mbogo said the company had done its best to engage with the community and deal with issues raised. The company has suspended operations in the region, citing insecurity.
The protests, which began on June 27, interrupted a trucking scheme to transport about 2,000 barrels of crude per day from the fields to the Coast. The pilot was launched in June.
The oil is being used to test flow rates before the firm starts full production and Kenya starts oil exports through a pipeline to the Coast.