As Kenya prepares to mark 100 years since the World War one ended, the government has been challenged to identify and restore war sites and artifacts in the country for preservation as heritage, culture and battlefield tourism attractions.
Global statistics show that culture and heritage tourism is one of the fastest growing and highest revenue source and sustainable visitor economy, which has contributed significantly in the growth tourist numbers as demonstrated by most Asia Pacific and European nations, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Majority of the World War One sites in Kenya are located in Taita Taveta County and areas around the Tsavo, which was the epicentre of the war, where the first shot, which sparked the bloody conflict in E. Africa was fired by German soldiers who attacked a British administration post in Taveta in 1914.
In statement, yesterday, a nongovernmental organization, Tsavo Heritage Foundation (THF), urged the government to urgently launch a programme of mapping, restoring and conserving the sites before they disappear due to neglect and destruction as a result of human activity.
“The predicament of the sites such as the historic airstrip at Mwakitau and the trenches of World War One battles that was fought on Salaita Hill in Taveta are disappearing under the feet of livestock and wildlife in the area,” warned a statement signed by the organization’s executive chairman Jacob Kipongoso.
“The challenge of reclaiming, documentation and preservation of the historical and cultural heritage cannot be overemphasized,” explained Kipongoso.
Kipongoso, whose organization seeks to restore and conserve the heritage of Tsavo ecosystem in a holistic manner, warned that lack of investment in the reclamation, documentation and preservation of the rich historical and cultural heritage of the Tsavo ecosystem and dispersal areas (TEDA) would greatly undermine all the conservation efforts of the region as a wildlife habitat.
He said the government should use the commemorations, set for between November 23rd and 25th, 2018, to rally and seek the support of international partners, affected county governments and other stakeholders in the restoration of the Tsavo Battlefied sites.
Recently the Standard established that some of the neglected historical sites include a building that housed the first newspaper printing press in East Africa, The Taveta Chronicles. The building which is located on Mahoo Hill in Taveta has been converted into a bathroom and bedroom respectively by a church which owns the property. Others include the first airstrip at Maktau, which is now a homestead.
“Investing in the country’s cultural and heritage assets will enhance Kenya’s competitiveness as a leading tourist destination of choice in the region, besides helping the country avoid overreliance on wildlife and beach tourism and in the process fend off increased competition from other African destinations such as Mauritius, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa among others who have diversified their offerings,” says Wilson Mwadilo, the general manager at Sarova’s Taita Hills and Salt Lick Lodges in Taita Taveta. He said globally history and heritage are important tourist attractions that fetch huge revenues.
The 100th commemoration of the end of the World War One, is marked globally on November 11, but it will be marked in E Africa on the 23rd -25th of November 2018 as the guns fell silent 12 days after the signing of the armistice in Europe. [email protected]