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Clashes Along Oil-Rich Kenyan-Uganda Border

Bottom Line: Tribal clashes along the Kenya-Uganda border, in Kenya’s oil-rich Turkana region bode ill for pipeline plans as Kenya moves to get its new crude to market and to connect up with landlocked Uganda and South Sudan to become the region’s energy hub.

Analysis: In mid-October, clashes erupted in earnest between rival tribes along Uganda's northeastern border with Kenya, too close for comfort to Kenya’s Turkana oil plays. At least 12 people have been killed in the clashes and dozens of others injured.

Since Kenya struck oil in 2012, courtesy of British Tullow Oil, pastoral groups have sporadically clashed, but not on this scale, and tensions continue to rise. Adding to the rising tensions are plans to build a pipeline across the region to link oil fields in landlocked Uganda and South Sudan to Kenya’s port at Lamu on the Indian Ocean. In the latest incident, some 200 nomadic cattle herders crossed the border into Kenya, sparking a shoot-out with the rival Pokots tribe in Kenya’s Turkana region and then fleeing with hundreds of stolen cattle back across the border into Uganda, with the Ugandan military in pursuit.

Recommendation: These rival tribes have a long history of competing for herds and grazing rights in the border region, and this has been exacerbated by Kenya’s oil development plans. This is a rising security concern for companies exploiting crude in the region, though for now the clashes are contained to areas that are dozens of kilometers away from exploration and development sites. The greater concern here is the instability this poses for the development of the pipeline route.




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