We have oil – actually a lot more stuff than earlier thought – the government says. The announcement received excited headlines for days, before we moved on to other things.
Reporters were flown to Turkana to get pictures of the heavy installations at the oil exploration sites and to talk to the local people, who, as a matter of fact, are more concerned about water, pasture, security and other “small” things.
Well, do we have oil? The an- nouncement may have been a political gimmick, or, like nearly everything these days, about saving the Ocampo Four.
Any of those characters who purport to offer expert advice to the government (at public expense) could have dreamed up the idea that declaring oil would whet the appe- tites of mzungus who have been giving President Kibaki and his people sleepless nights with their support for The Hague trials.
Even the monkeys at City Park know Kibaki doesn’t like those trials. Maybe he has a personal interest in the fate of one of the four, or all of them. Maybe he is scared cold of the juicy details that could be spilled at the hearings and which could turn his retirement into a death sentence.
Anyway, mzungus get very excited on hearing of an oil find in an African country and quickly forget all talk about good governance, democracy, human rights, etc.
Look at the Museveni in Uganda, for instance. No Western power would dare to lecture him these days. Museveni has oil. He would simply pick up his phone and call the Chinese.
Let us, for the moment, dare to believe government talk that we have oil reserves that are even bigger than Uganda’s. What then?
On May 5, Nation in its Daily Kenya Living (DN2) section had a lead story titled: “Making oil work for us”, with the subhead: “Leading economists on how it can be done and how it has been done elsewhere”.
Who were the “leading economists” Nation contacted to give us rare wisdom about our oil? Wolf- gang Fengler, the World Bank’s Lead Economist in Nairobi, Gunther
Schulze, Professor of Economics at the University of Freiburg, Germany, Marcelo Giugale, a World Bank Direc- tor for Poverty Reduction and Eco- nomic Management, Africa Region, and Geoff Handley, a consultant and Public Financial Management expert with the World Bank.
Exactly the type of folks we should have rounded up and ran out of town immediately we discovered oil!
There is nothing called the World Bank, to start with. What “world”? What stake do African nations have in that bank? Nigerian economist and “World” Bank veteran Okonjo Iweala could not become the bank’s president the other month simply because she is not an American. Yet we keep talking about the “World” Bank!
Now, those Western guys Nation contacted to “shed light” on our oil, as the paper put it, are just the sort of people you don’t want anywhere near Africa’s resources. They are out here in Africa pretending to offer solutions to the continent’s people when all they do is scout for opportunities to sell credit and keep Africa in the shackles of foreign debt.
But there is such a great deal of fascination with the “World” Bank and IMF in the Kenyan media, as if their representatives come to town to give Kenyans free money. Hardly a day passes without a headline about these institutions.
“If indeed Kenya has substantial oil reserves, will they benefit the country in the long-term? Some observers are predicting similar problems as in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and many other resource-rich African countries where corruption has been ampli- fied,” two of those two gurus wrote.
What? Who has stolen Nigerian oil for decades in the Niger Delta and destroyed the environment and people’s livelihoods there forever? Corrupt Nigerian leaders alone? Not Shell? Not Chevron?
Who is that kleptocrat Obiang’ Nguema of Guinea stealing the peo- ple’s oil with?
When those black scoundrels in power steal their people’s patrimony, whom do they collude with? Where do they keep their loot? Where do they buy property? In which compa- nies do they buy stakes?
“More worryingly, the sudden wealth that comes from natural resources can erode the quality of institutions. Politicians may be less pressured to undertake needed reforms and the windfall revenue may be spent on “white elephants” (non-productive prestige projects) or large transfer schemes that end up benefitting the political elite,” the experts lectured.
Ask anyone. The thieving third world political elite is simply an appendage of the Western capitalist elite through clever conduits such as the “World” Bank and IMF. The West would collapse in a heap tomorrow morning if it stopped stealing African wealth for just 24 hours.
But Western know-alls and politi- cal leaders will always shift respon- sibility to the Africans and their ‘big men’. And we have media here on the continent that perpetuates this myth.
“World” Bank mandarins are quite incapable of discussing oil (or other resources) in Kenya in newspaper write-ups without self-interest, with- out covering up the sinister agendas of the West.
Is it so difficult for Nation to see this? Or is big media part of the evil conspiracies of the West against Africa?