Armed Man Lake Turkana Kenya
An armed man walks towards the shores of Lake Turkana in northwestern Kenya.Reuters

British, Canadian and Chinese investments in Kenya, East Africa's largest economy, could be at risk if ethnic violence escalates in the country's northern Marsabit county.

Africa's biggest wind-power project is coming up in western Marsabit. The €620m (£510m, $846m) 300-megawatt Lake Turkana Wind Power project has the backing of the EU and the African Development Bank.

Meanwhile, London-based Tullow Oil and Canada's Africa Oil are among those prospecting for oil in Marsabit. The British oil explorer doubled its Kenyan resource estimates to more than 600 million barrels earlier in the month.

However, clashes between factions, demanding a greater share of the development of infrastructure in the area, threaten to throw things out of gear in Marsabit.

Fighting in the region has already forced China Wuyi to suspend the construction of a road linking the county's largest town Moyale to Isiolo in central Kenya.

The insecurity also threatens to holdup the execution of a road and rail-transport corridor linking the Kenyan port town of Lamu with neighboring South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Forecasts for a drought in the region in the first quarter risk infuriating the "tense situation" in the county, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on 23 January.

"The county governments have taken power from us and now with their economic muscles they want to control the lucrative transport business to Ethiopia, control oil exploration and the wind energy project in Marsabit county," Boru Sora, a 25-year-old leader of a group of Borana youths told Bloomberg in December 2013.

"We will not allow only them to own everything," Sora added.

Renewed fighting in the county in December forced 72,000 people to leave their homes, the UN estimated.

Clashes between Borana nomads and the crop-growing Burji community killed some 56 people in 2013, more than double the number in 2012, according to Marsabit County Police commissioner Erastus Muthamia.