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5 - Meanings of Place & Struggles for Inclusion in the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 January 2023

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Summary

Relationships between place, belonging and identity are at the core of many local-level struggles around large resource investments in the drylands of Kenya. Focusing on the Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP) project in northern Kenya, this chapter explores how these relationships become visible through a Samburu pastoralist community’s struggle for inclusion, including the key roles played by local intermediaries. It also discusses the divisions and alliances that emerged within and between the Samburu community and other communities. It is based on ethnographic data collected during fieldwork between 2014 and 2015 when the LTWP project was under construction.

In the drylands of Kenya, community-level struggles for inclusion in recent large-scale investments, including the LTWP project (Cormack and Kurewa 2018), in terms of access to information, compensation, jobs and other benefits, have led to increasingly contested exclusive (ethnic) claims of different groups to place. These claims are often based upon selectively remembered communal histories. This amplification of territorialised ethnicity (Schlee 2010) is affecting social relationships.

This chapter adds complexity to discussions of territorialised identities and investments. It shows how attachments to place for members of one Samburu community underpin, emerge and are negotiated through their struggles for inclusion in the LTWP project and other investments. Meanings of place and belonging are understood through the concept of ‘our place’ (nkop ang’), which derives salience from the way it is a part of lives through ancestry, herding, defending land and ceremonies. Nkop ang’ involves inclusive, exclusive, territorial and non-territorial notions of place.

The chapter discusses the central role played by intermediaries in the community’s struggle for investment benefits. Embodied notions of place and belonging, and a perceived breaching of moral codes, are key to understanding community members’ feelings of exclusion from investments and the anger many felt over the role of local intermediaries in facilitating this exclusion. Perceived inequitable distribution of investment benefits caused divisions between communities. Anger and discontent surrounding these divisions were focused on intermediaries.

The chapter details the ways that intermediaries tried to subdue protest against them by dividing, and forming alliances within, the community; while some Samburu County politicians strategically supported the youth protest and inflamed certain portrayals of nkop ang’ for political gain.

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Land, Investment and Politics
Reconfiguring Eastern Africa's Pastoral Drylands
, pp. 66 - 77
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2020

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