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Govt pledges to protect investors from insecurity

31 October 2013, 09:11

Nairobi - The government on Wednesday pledged to protect foreign investors from insecurity in the East African country.

Cabinet Secretary in Charge Internal Security Joseph Ole Lenku said security has been beefed up at oil exploration sites in Turkana in the northwest as talks between the residents and British oil exploration firm Tullow started to end the suspension of operations due to insecurity.

"The government wishes to reassure investors that it will do everything in its power to provide a safe and security investment atmosphere in the country," Lenku said in a statement released in Nairobi.

He termed as regrettable Sunday's incident that led to the closure of oil drilling and evacuation of staff at various oil camps under the management of Tullow Oil.

The government's statement came three days after Tullow Oil confirmed it had suspended oil drilling operations on two blocks in Turkana, citing security concerns.

The oil firm said the suspension of the activities was sparked by local residents who held protests demanding for more jobs at the sites.

"Tullow confirms that there have been a number of demonstrations at Tullow operated sites in Northern Kenya regarding local concerns around employment," it said.

The British oil firm which begun drilling activities in Kenya three years ago, added that its priority now was to ensure the safety of its staff, hence the temporary shutdown on operations.

The company said its working closely with the central and County Government to bring these demonstrations to a peaceful and orderly close as soon as possible.

"We have temporarily suspended our operations across Block 10BB and Block 13T in Turkana East and Turkana South sub-counties. The priority at the moment is to ensure the safety and security of our staff," it said.

But Lenku said the security forces are investigating area lawmaker, James Lemenen who led a group of about 400 which stormed the oil drilling camp in Turkana County.

He said the lawmaker claimed that they were demonstrating against Tullow Oil Company for apparently discriminating local people in its employment police.

"Inside the camp, the group engaged in wanton destruction of property and looting. The government is investigating allegations that the Turkana South MP has vested personal interest in tenders coming from the Tullow Oil Company," Lenku said.

Statistics available show that the British firm has a workforce of about 1,400 and out of these, 800 employees are from Turkana County, translating to 57.1 percent. "Accusations of discrimination are not evident from these facts," Lenku said.

"The police has beefed up security in the area and will be establishing additional permanent police posts in selected areas of Turkana County as is doing in other parts of the country," he said. "Whereas leaders have a right to champion the interest of their communities, they should not do this in a manner that not only breaks the law but also incites the public and leads to destruction of property," he warned.

While decades of oil exploration failed to yield results, in most cases, ending with nothing less than a bottle of crude oil, experts say there were high hopes of Kenya striking commercial oil with the advent of new oil exploration technologies.

Kenya has a huge mineral potential but its exploration efforts have only picked in the last 5 years with the awarding of commercial licences in prospecting for oil, gold, coal, geothermal and rare earths.

The East African nation has drilled 31 dry wells in Isiolo, (northeastern Kenya) and Lamu (Southeast) and has lost a lot of money. Officials said the discovery of the commercial quantities of oil in Turkana, one of the poorest communities.

Tullow has a 50 percent operated interest in the Paipai-1 well, Block 10A, with Africa Oil holding 30 percent and Afren holding the remaining 20 percent.

- Xinhua


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