Stakeholders call for Voi rail to be preserved as war artefact

Calls are being made to preserve the dilapidated Voi-Taveta railway line as part of the country’s World War 1 (WW1) history.

Historians and stakeholders in the multi-billion-shilling tourism industry, while welcoming plans by Kenya Railways to upgrade the rail track from a one-metre gauge to the standard gauge railway (SGR), said the old rail track is an important part of Taita Taveta County’s history.

“We are yet to strike it rich on battlefield tourism, though it is gaining momentum the world over. Taita Taveta County has very attractive battlefield sites that we can develop,” said Willy Mwadilo, a hotelier.

During a media tour of the SGR line from Mombasa to Nairobi last month, Kenya Railways Managing Director Athanus Maina said a feasibility study would be undertaken before work starts on upgrading the Voi-Taveta railway line.

“This particular rail route from Voi to Taveta was put up to serve British forces who were fighting German soldiers during WW1, and carries lots of history,” said Mr Mwadilo, who is also the chairman of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Tsavo and Amboseli region.

He added that supplies and general merchandise for British soldiers and allied forces that arrived at the Port of Mombasa were hauled by train to Voi and on to Taveta.

Battlefield tourism specialises in tours of battlefields, cemeteries, memorials and related historical sites.

“It is different from war tourism, which involves visiting active war zones often at great personal risk,” said Mwadilo.