Kenya: Today’s Presidential Announcement of Tullow Oil Drilling Find in Turkana (several weeks ago) Coincides with News of Major Cabinet Shakeup

“Kenya Strikes Oil in Turkana”, Capital FM

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 26 – After years of prospecting, Kenya has finally made a breakthrough by striking oil in Turkana County in the north, with focus now shifting to exploring its commercial viability.

The discovery of the light, waxy oil was made in a half-way drilled Ngamia-1 exploration well, raising expectations that there could be huge reserves once the total depth of 2,700 metres is reached.

“The well has been drilled to an initial depth of 1,041 metres and it will continue to a total depth of about 2,700 metres to explore for deeper potential in this prospect,” Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi said at a press briefing.

President Mwai Kibaki was the first to break the news earlier in the day. . . . .

The Nation’s “Big Story” is on the Cabinet.

The reshuffle seems hugely consequential in Kenya’s election year politics:  it certainly appears that Kibaki has made a large gesture toward realigning the Cabinet toward the “G7 Alliance” which has lingered as both the primary political vehicle to advocate for Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto against the ICC and most visible successor to much of the PNU apparatus from 2007-08.

The most prominent moves as explained by “A Political Kenya 2012”:

Eugene Wamalwa – Minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs
– Biggest winner as the docket will promote him to the senior most politician in Western province and probably check Musalia Mudavadi’s rising star
– He is an Ocampo 4 sympathiser
– Was once linked to president Kibaki’s son (Jimmy Kibaki) 2012 campaign as his prefered presidential candidate.
– Also seen as a compromise candidate for the G7 alliance
Mutula Kilonzo – Minister of Education
– Demotion from Minister for Justice Minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs despite having delivered a new constitution which many previous justice ministers failed to do
– Punished for being an ardent Ocampo 4 Critic and for not toeing the ODM Kenya line

Also, Moses Wetangala has been demoted from Foreign Affairs to Trade (just after finally getting out of Bamako following the Malian coup).  This would seem to tie in to advancing Eugene Wamalwa as Luhya political leader in Western Province to the detriment of Deputy PM and announced ODM candidate Musalia Mudavidi.  On the ODM side, Najib Balala is the only Minister completely sacked, losing Tourism.  The Coast figure has been at odds with Raila Odinga for much of Kibaki’s second term in and openly expressed “seller’s remorse” for supporting Raila irrespective of his status as a member of the “Pentagon” from the 2007 campaign.

And no change in status for Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta as he continues to fight the prospect of facing ICC trial and to rally ethnic support in Central Province.

The political establishment in Kenya will not be easily moved in the 2012 elections, now most likely ending up to be in 2013 through a complicated series of legal wickets for which no one has claimed responsibility and for which there is no obvious popular support.  I hope it is finally dawning of any doubters that the Government of Kenya as an institution is quite mobilized on balance to try to stop the ICC, as it has been–and not in favor of any substitute local justice mechanism.

The political stakes continue to rise and the prospect of oil money on the near term horizon if anything raises them more.  If nothing else, there will be a lot of pressure to do oil deals for campaign funding.

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