Turkana: Race for Resources

A forgotten desert community grapples with the consequences of a big oil find on their land. Will the promised development be what they’ve always wanted and must they lose their traditional way of life? From the community elders looking for answers and a place at the table, to the young environmentalist campaigning for social justice, to the oil man, who is convinced that this geological find can bring the progress and investment that the region has been desperately waiting for. Turkana: Race for Resources observes the battle for the soul and the future of Kenya’s great Northern desert country.

In the far reaches of Northern Kenya, an area marginalized since independence, a huge oil discovery has been made. Some of the residents of Turkana are excited by the news of the find. They hope the valuable discovery will bring revenues and much-needed development to the region. But two years after the oil find was announced, the hope has soured into grievance as it appears the oil will go the way of other Kenyan development stories and none of the benefits will be for the locals. For community members in Nakukulas village, where the oil find in the Lokichar basin is centered, the exploration started without their consent. One day they woke up to find huge machinery digging roads, fencing grazing land and water points. While the land above ground belongs to the community, the Government of Kenya cites a constitutional mandate that gives it custodianship over all minerals found beneath the ground and a development agenda to utilize the resources to best benefit the country. The government has given out licenses for exploration blocks but when the oil companies reach the ground, they find local communities resistant to the drilling on their land. For Mzee Amadole, the presence of well-to-do foreigners with shiny trucks in their impoverished and marginalized land is especially bitter. With the low levels of education and literacy, they may not understand what exactly is going on, but they know it is expensive and they are not a part of it. When he was growing up they had lots of livestock which are the measure of wealth in the region. Conflict with the neighboring Pokot community, who are well armed, depleted their livestock and left them destitute. For Ikal Angelei, a passionate young activist from Turkana, ensuring the community gets a fair share of the resources found on their land is paramount. As a child Ikal followed her politician father as he went around the villages and towns in his constituency, exposing her to politics at an early age. The building of the GIBE III dam on the Omo River in Ethiopia sparked her activism as an adult. The Omo River provides 90% of Lake Turkana’s inflows and keeps the water fresh enough for drinking, both human and livestock, and fishing. As a young, educated member of the Turkana community who straddled both the traditional and modern worlds, Ikal was compelled to act. She brought together elders, chiefs and opinion leaders from various Lake Turkana communities to fight against the dam. As a result of the campaign, The World Bank and African Development Bank pulled their support from the dam, leaving the Chinese as the only investors. She was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2012. Just as the community was celebrating the victory, the oil discovery was announced. The government’s flagship project, LAPSSET , a massive infrastructure project connecting Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia, will utilize the region’s newfound status as an oil and gas hot spot to drive development, but at what cost to local communities? The film is an observational narrative with interviews that will follow the journey of communities in Turkana as they navigate what oil find means for them and the region.

Production team