Skip to content

Turkana Security

April 10, 2012

10th April 2012

Since our last post on Oil Find in Turkana, there has been lots of talk on the impact of oil find in Turkana. Turkana security is one area that a great impact is going to be felt in. The potential for conflict in and around Turkana is raised by the oil find. The truth of the security situation is enough to worry many in Turkana. The initial reactions of Government of Kenya are a pointer of what to expect in Turkana in future. We explore the existing scenario and digest what it portends for people of Turkana.

Oil Find That Is a Security Vortex
The oil well at Kodekode (the real name of the place christened Ngamia 1) has already attracted heavy security. Numerous other sites where oil prospecting activities are taking place have heavy security presence provided to ensure that activities go on as scheduled. The downturn is that, since the announcement confirming oil in the well at Kodekode, numerous attacks have taken place in Southern Turkana. The unusual escalation has crept in with stealth in a smokescreen of oil find excitement. It is unfortunate that many Turkana people have lost their lives and livestock (visit our twitter handle @TurkanaTechNet and facebook [Turkana Technical Network] page for details). The irony of the escalating conflict is baffling. More security personnel have been amassed around the oil well and on prospecting camps and sites while insecurity at the periphery is on the rise. The oil find is the newest security vortex, the other being VIP protection, that demands security personnel density in an environment synonymous with insecurity.

VIP Security for the Oil Well

The oil well at Kodekode has attracted VIP security. The kind of VIP security referred here is not the traditional Very Important Person (VIP) security we are accustomed to, but one provided to Very Important Points (VIPs). Perhaps the amassing of heavy security at oil instalments is anxiety of internal discord in relation to the oil deals. That could be in order considering that the transactions on oil prospecting have been kept under wraps. Even The County Council of Turkana, the trustee of that part of our land, was not privy to the foregoing. But on a critical perspective, security of the beneficiaries has largely been ignored.

We Are Under Attacks

The potential for conflict in and around Turkana is raised by the oil find. Since the announcement of oil news, there have been numerous intense attacks targeting Turkana people, livestock and land. The most intense and sustained are attacks along the Turkwel Valley (Kainuk, Turkwel Gorge, Lorokon, Kaputir, Kalemngorok, Kapelibok, Juluk, Katilu, Lokapel, Kotaruk). The Turkwel Valley attacks are serious. In just one month, many Turkana people have been killed and injured. The scale and intensity of attacks appears pre-planned and well coordinated with knowledge of Kenya security response in mind. The attacks have been staged and executed in such a way as to prevent effective deployment of security forces to counter the ‘raiders’. In one of those days, three different places, tens of kilometres apart, were attacked simultaneously. Security response did not succeed to repulse attackers; they were repulsed instead, with losses and casualties. Word has it that experienced fighters from a neighbouring country are involved to prop up their kith and kin in Kenya.

The Turkwel Valley attacks are an indicator of what to expect in current and future conflicts. International mercenaries working at the behest of influential persons using existing inter-ethnic feuds to advance their criminal agenda for gain and psychotic bliss, could already be staging attacks. The existing presumptions of internecine cattle rustling, which have become a news irritation to most ears that claim a level of civility, makes it difficult to notice the changing trends of conflict.

That is one side of Turkana. All other sides have their fair share of conflicts. There is Turkana East, which is subject to the same conflict dynamics and predicament as Turkana South. There is active conflict ranging from the Lochwakula, Akoret to Kapedo. Loima District on the Western side of Turkana is also subject of attacks and so have been other border areas around Turkana.

Considering these developments, therefore, we propose that The Government of Kenya takes these attacks along River Turkwel seriously. It is the primary responsibility of government to protect its citizens, their property and sovereignty. Kenya should mobilize and react in the same spirit as it does on threats from form Al Shabab, this time with more vigour and speed because citizens in an oil producing area have been killed and these salient threats continue to scare people and livestock. The government should ascertain the origins of the armed insurgents; track them and bring them to book; alongside their foreign contacts and accomplices.

Meanwhile Re-Arm Turkana

The Government of Kenya should rebate and re-arm the boundary frontiers of Turkana to compensate for the oil well and oil prospection sites security personnel. In so doing, we recommend hiring and training of Turkana Youth to provide homeland security in the border areas and complement national security organs. We say complement because locals have a great deal of psyche and passion in so far as defending Turkana land and people is concerned. The kind of security intervention we envision here is training, similar to the National Youth Service and integration to community service as Kenya Police Reservists. This kind of strategy is not new in this part of the world. In previous decades in history, Turkana Irregulars complemented the defence roles of main fighting forces and effectively kept invaders out of Turkana and secured the North-West Conner of Kenya during colonial times right through to the Shifta Wars.

Re-arming Turkana will help fend off armed insurgency and terrorism. Equitably armed Turkana will increase the level of deterrence for armed insurgency in and around its borders. The capacity for Turkana community to spontaneously respond to armed attacks is beneficial in a national strategy for defence given the geographic location of Turkana, expansive nature of the land, terrain and weather. Serious massacres like what happened in Todonyang are a course for worry, now that oil is found and climate change is real.

Security Worries

Talking about reality, Turkana security is really worrying. The existing institutional security is inadequate to even patrol the highways, let alone man the expansive borders. The demand for security in Turkana is critical given that armed conflicts in nearby countries have a direct effect on Turkana’s security. The renewed conflict between the governments of South Sudan and Sudan has a humanitarian crisis looming. The Conflicts of The Two Sudans settle right inside Turkana at Kakuma refugee camp. Refugees are already streaming in. The controversial Gibe III Dam under construction in Ethiopia posses the greatest risk of heightened inter-ethnic tension and threatens traditional survival of some 500,000 inhabitants of Omo Basin Area of South Western Ethiopia. Potential survival conflicts with Turkana people are already being felt in the delta of River Omo.

On the Uganda side, despite the East African Community friendship display and collaboration in the fight against terrorism in Somalia, Uganda is a serious political competitor of Kenya and an international attention seeker on the East Coast of Africa. Noting that the Migingo Island dispute remains unresolved and there is serious arming of armed forces, there is need for concern.

Oil in Turkana is a real game changer for East Africa’s politics given Kenya’s pre-eminence as de facto leaders in matters East African. Once more, Kenya will play in the new league of emerging oil economics in East Africa, and likely dominate. Uganda is likely going to remain a trailer, following closely in tow of Kenya’s driving in politics and economy. Investment opportunities in oil sector in Eastern Africa are aligned in favour of Kenya. Kenya has already secured contracts for the pipeline to South Sudan that will pass through Turkana not to mention the anticipated construction of railway line and Highway to Juba. The oil find in Turkana will lower the significance of Uganda’s oil find, a fact that might not resonate well in certain influential quarters.

The Worry is not in the politics of oil, but on security and security policies of surrounding governments. Surrounding governments (Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia) have had a spate of engagements with pastoralist conflicts involving Turkana pastoralists.
When we recall numerous bombings of Turkana pastoralists by Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF), especially the incident of November 02, 2006 when Turkana herdsmen were bombed at Lokipoto and that of August 14, 2007 bombing of Turkana kraal at Napeikidor Loitom area where over 2050 cattle and 143 people were killed by bombs, we have course for concern because The Government of Kenya remained silent.

Pokot pastoralists in Kenya and Uganda, together with the Tepeth, with whom they occasionally form military alliances against Turkana, are the greatest threats to Turkana’s security due to the destabilizing effects of their raids.

Toposa attacks from South Sudan are another concern. Toposa attack of 2009 and 2011 are pointing at how serious conflicts around Turkana can be. Heavily armed and determined to remain in battle for land and pasture in Nadapal, Toposa fighters complicated relations between Kenya and South Sudan. Geopolitical interests and military intervention cooled the embers of what would otherwise be a protracted fight.

Merille militia attacks from Ethiopia, in both land and sea have been wrecking havoc to people in North Turkana. Merille attacks have been escalating in magnitude; with the massacre in May 2011 where 42 people were killed being the worst incident. Ethiopia’s damming of the River Omo to construct hydro-electric generating stations Gibe (Series II to V) and sugar plantations development plan is likely going to displace Ethiopian pastoralists creating a possible influx into adjacent Turkana. That influx is a sure recipe for armed conflicts.

Inside Kenya, there have been resurgent conflicts involving pastoralists and security forces in boundary areas of Southern Turkana. The consciousness of an objective greater in meaning and purpose than cattle rustling has been obvious, mainly from Pokot Pastoralists. Raids have been conducted on Turkana herders, settlements and even wildlife and environment. In other isolated, but related, developments, Turkana people have been the subject of renewed inter-ethnic hatred linked to political and resource competition in pockets of land they live in, inside Kenya. The most pronounced conflict involving Turkana people outside the confines of Turkana is Isiolo. The conflict in Isiolo and other places where Turkana are minorities has a bearing on how Turkana people will relate with other ethnic groups inside Kenya.

Inter ethnic threats propped up by state mechanism (national and international) which are unwilling to openly enter the conflict stage, are security threats of today’s frontiers in Turkana. Proxy wars in form of inter-ethnic conflicts are likely going to take centre stage. Turkana people (pastoralists in particular) will therefore find little peace and bliss on oil find and massive infrastructure developments in Turkana frontiers areas if concrete steps are not taken to improve security.

Improving Security

Importance of security in life is a matter of existence. Security determines the extent of freedom in life an individual or community has. It is the space within which one can pursue objectives. Indeed, it is one of the objectives of proper government. And not just government, every person and entity serious enough to have goals to achieve considers security a priority. So, security is best approached from a point of collective responsibility.

Community-Based Security Strategies

There is need to develop community-based security improvement strategies in an environment that demands continuous surveillance. Communities have capabilities to provide accurate information and realistic strategies that are cost effective in improving security in their surroundings.

In partnership with government, community-based security strategies can employ measures such as patrols, sealing known criminal tracks and convergence points and improving transport and communication. This can give communities breathing space to allow socio-economic activities to be conducted in a secure atmosphere.

Specialized Forces for Internal Security

The government needs to rethink design of security services in frontier regions. The rapid response nature of security needs in Turkana require a structure capable of quick response, high firepower and one that is backed by aerial war machines capable of strafing targets day or night. Modern technology should also be employed in borders surveillance. Drones should be deployed for surveillance purposes in Turkana. The kind of Special Forces that can be effective here are those that fight and win low intensity warfare.

Improve Community Socio-economic Standing

Poverty is the worst insecurity. Turkana has been synonymous with misery and poverty for over half a century. Prior to that, nomadic pastoralism, subsistence farming, hunting and gathering as a lifestyle had provided for most of the needs to sustain Turkana. Recurrent droughts, cattle raids and insecurity has weakened people and impoverished an otherwise resilient community to the extent of relying on relief food handouts. In some areas in Turkana whole communities are humbled and are at the mercy of good-willed people and agencies that, once in a while, have some basic provision in food rations and medicines.

The most awful form of poverty is poverty without hope. Lucky for Turkana, the oil find renews hope. Oil wealth brings potential and hope that things will be better for all in Turkana. A priority for us in Turkana now is what will become of oil money when the dust of scramble for Turkana settles. To end poverty fast, we recommend equitable distribution of oil revenues with locals receiving their shares directly to their personal accounts, including M-Pesa. That should be besides investments in education scholarship, schools, social amenities and job creation.

Need for Pastoralists Harmonization Initiatives

Turkana is surrounded by most pastoral communities that share common language, culture, lifestyle and livelihoods with Turkana people, commonly referred to as Ateker Cluster. Until a few years ago, these communities interacted and shared resources with Turkana people, employing mechanisms that enabled them resolve and manage conflicts. This is not the case now. The oil find and enormous economic opportunities that come along with oil signals that pastoralist communities in Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Kenya must coexist peacefully and in harmony with one another if they have to benefit. There is need to engage these pastoralists in continuous and constructive dialogue so as to stop hostilities and realise the inherent economic opportunities now available. This kind of initiative was once implemented by African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU/IBAR) across borders and was effective in reducing inter-community conflicts.

Use Mass Media

There is need for Turkana people to establish media outlets to present information to the global stage. Simple people’s journalism which is not capital intensive can generate information and a platform from which partnerships with the likes of internationally acclaimed media outlets like CNN and BBC can lift local issues to the international stage. There are numerous instances where locals get disgusted to see news bulletins about their areas tweaked with inaccurate content and context. Local journalists will help profile the case of Turkana with acuity for the benefit and development of land and people.

End Current Armed Conflicts

Current conflicts can be eliminated. The cost benefit analysis of ending current conflicts is now favourable to the government of Kenya. The current geo-political attention to Turkana is an opportunity to be utilized. The government of Kenya and stakeholders should develop or support development of a comprehensive strategy for conflict resolution in Turkana. Boundary conflicts resolution is a first step in addressing both short-term and long-term security issues. An independent commission to ascertain real community boundaries needs to be established. There is need to develop and strengthen partnership with government, inter-government and Non-government institutions on all areas that promote the security interests of the Turkana and Government of Kenya.

Change of Leadership and Attitude

Leadership is a key determinant of security success or failure. Qualities and conduct of a leader determines implementation of security strategies and responses. Good policies and structures can be ineffective if leadership fails to act in a way that results are realized when required. In the last 50 years, security in Turkana was largely determined by leadership on the ground, let alone policy and structures. But good leadership has been seasonal; determined by chance and luck in getting the right leaders. Even then, good leaders subject to the hash realities of Turkana, where there is an apparent disconnect with things Kenya and modern, do not take long to develop attitude in work. Either they realize they have real power and act like demigods, or they realize they can’t solve much and ask for transfer or promotion.

What Turkana needs today, more than tomorrow, is strategic leadership in all major sectors. Strategic leaders will be the change agents to deliver Turkana from the current limbo to realization of full potential in the next semi-autonomous devolved government.

Ekuam Ewoi

Chairperson, Turkana Technical Network

Michael Kapolon, Contributor

Joseph Munyes, Contributor


From → Human Security

  1. That is very interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I have joined your rss feed and sit up for looking for more of your excellent post. Additionally, I have shared your website in my social networks

  2. You could definitely see your enthusiasm in the paintings you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. At all times go after your heart.

  3. Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was once a amusement account it. Look complicated to more introduced agreeable from you! However, how could we keep up a correspondence?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: