Kaya elders demand conservation of dying shrines, Digo culture


Kwale,Kenya: Kaya elders from the Digo community in Diani, Kwale County are blaming Government agents for the dying Digo culture.

They say since the infamous Kayabombo clashes of 1997 they can no longer freely visit Kaya forests that are their shrines as they are mistaken for criminals. “After Kayabombo and Mulungunipa clashes we could no longer visit our forests and when we do we are arrested. Now we are accused of belonging to the Mombasa Republican Council and we are in fear,” said the Kaya Diani chairman Abdallah Boga.

Making their complaints to Kwale’s Executive member in charge of Tourism and Information Technology, Mr Adam Sheikh who had visited them, Mr Boga urged the county government to establish a Kaya cultural centre that can benefit the local community through tourism revenue. “The centre will create employment opportunities hence improving livelihoods. We want our culture to be taught even in schools,” he said.

Apart from being used as a shrine Kayas are a major conservation resource as they act as water catchment areas but since Kaya Diani was gazetted in 1992 private developers started moving in from 1996 and so far only fifty acres can be traced. “The forest gives a good habitat and we can also get medicinal plants. But some of the land has been grabbed. We therefore urge the minister to ensure the title deed is traced so that it can be registered under the community,” he further added.

Act on demands

They also asked the Government to recognise the community’s conservation efforts.

On his part, Sheikh requested to get a register of those managing the Kaya so that he can act on their demands. “The Executive member in charge of land and mining will conduct a land audit and the governor is committed to ensuring that all land belonging to the community remains as such and that it is protected and gazetted,” he said adding he would ensure hotels include Kayas in their tourism programmes.