NAIROBI (Reuters) - Tullow Oil and partner Africa Oil said on Thursday they would resume operations this week in northwest Kenya after talks with the government to prevent a repeat of violent protests which halted work last month.
Supported by local politicians, residents from the remote, poverty-stricken northern Turkana community marched on Tullow sites on October 26 demanding more jobs and other benefits.
Britain’s Tullow said in a statement that it would restart work on Friday in blocks 10BB and Block 13T in the Turkana region after “successful dialogue with national and county government and leaders of the local community”.
Energy Minister Davis Chirchir is expected to give an update on Tullow on Thursday.
Tullow’s suspension of drilling highlighted the challenge which firms face in managing local expectations of swift returns as they seek to build an oil and gas industry from scratch in Kenya and east Africa, a hot new region for oil and natural gas.
Tullow said a memorandum of understanding it signed with the Energy Ministry laid out plans for the government, local officials and communities to work together.
It said this would “ensure that operations can continue without disruption in the future”.
Tullow, which says more than 800 of its 1,400 employees in Kenya are from the Turkana area, said it had reaffirmed its commitment to providing local employment and opportunities.
The government had accused a local member of parliament, James Lomenen, of leading a group of about 400 people to Twiga 1 drilling camp.
It said the group broke down a fence and “engaged in wanton destruction of property and looting” when security officials barred their entry.
Lomenen had told Reuters he expected to be charged in court last week in relation to the incident, but the court hearing did not go ahead. He denied incitement and said he welcomed investors, but wanted the local community to see more benefits.
Reporting by George Obulutsa; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Richard Lough and Jason Neely