February 2008
Merti Range Users Association

The following memorandum was prepared by members of the Merti Range
Users Association in northern Isiolo, Kenya. It expresses their
concern about concessions recently granted to a Chinese company to
prospect for oil in the rangelands. It illustrates the potential
threats of this kind of external investment on the ecosystem and
local livelihoods, and the lack of transparency in the negotiations.

Memorandum submitted by the Merti Range Users Association of Isiolo,
Kenya, in relation to a Chinese company undertaking oil prospecting
activities in the area

To: Hon. Kiraitu Murungi, Minister for Energy
Hon. Mohamed Abdi Kuti, MP Isiolo North
The Director, NEMA
The District Commissioner, Isiolo District
All Councillors, Isiolo County Council

Whereas Rangeland Users Association is an institutional framework
developed for the purpose of the welfare of the pastoralist people
living in Merti division of Isiolo district;

Recognizing that pastoralism is the mainstay of the economy of the
area and thus the majority of the population are therefore members of
the association;

Further noting that a Chinese company is now said to engage in
undertaking oil prospecting activities in the heartland of the
rangeland on which the pastoralists raise their livestock and manage
the environment, its fauna and flora;

Apprehensive that the said prospecting activities will lead to
massive environmental destruction, thereby destabilizing an already
fragile ecosystem that is constantly pressurized by the vagaries of
ever-changing climatic conditions;

Further noting that the said Chinese company is undertaking these
activities in total exclusion of the local people and its leadership;

Realizing that this oil prospecting activity will ultimately lead to
not only destroying the existing ecosystem, its economy and the
people depending on it but have serious long-term negative effects on
the environment on which we derive our livelihood;

And having further realized that the said Chinese company is not
willing to engage the local population, its leadership and
institutions on any of the issues,

We therefore submit the following:

1. That an urgent immediate action be taken by the elected leadership
to engage the relevant government organ/department to ensure the
above-raised concerns are addressed in the following manner.
2. That the Chinese company is practising unethical labour procedure
in total contravention of international labour conventions, Kenyan
labour laws and rules of natural justice. This they do by engaging
persons without any signed papers, not informing them of their
renumerations, working long extensive hours without commensurate
overtime payments, tight social restrictions bordering on enslavement
and human rights abuse. This is all supposedly happening in your own
country and village. This must be urgently redressed and corrected.
3. That any further employment opportunities must be given to the
local people unless such expertise cannot be sourced locally.
4. All sourcing of goods and services must also be given to the local
people as propriety.
5. That the oil company should pay for the havoc they will cause to
the local economy in view of the destruction their activities are
going to occasion to the environment, economy and infrastructure in
the area such as roads.
6. That the process of granting concessions and rights by the
government must involve the local pastoralist communities whose
livelihood depends wholly on this land and the natural resources
found thereon.
7. That these are grave matters touching on lives and livelihoods and
should be addressed with the urgency they deserve.

*Signed for and on behalf of 68 elders representing all the
localities of Merti division, Diba Golicha Galma, Chairman, Range
Users Association, Merti.

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