Governing Black Gold: Lessons From Oil Finds in Turkana, Kenya

Published on 1 October 2017

Oil exploration and appraisal operations have multiplied across eastern Africa over the past decade. Many of the areas where operations have expanded are agrarian and pastoral margins, where a wider transformation is happening including small town growth and the development of new transport infrastructure.

Overlaying these processes are new forms of governance that emphasise the sharing of powers – and public finance – between national and sub-national levels of governance, and increasingly vocal claims for participation and autonomy. While national governments tout the potential of oil discoveries to spur economic growth and prosperity, its benefits are less clear for inhabitants of marginal rural areas.

This briefing examines lessons from Turkana, Kenya, where oil finds are associated with new conflict risks as well as changes in peacebuilding institutions and relations. Experiences in Turkana raise important lessons around the need to engage with and reinforce emergent local structures that insist on benefits, rights and accountability.

Related content


The silent vote

Vicky Mulema

27 March 2023