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Taita-Taveta, Kenya: As Kenyans mark one hundred years since start of World War 1 (WW1), Taita-Taveta County residents have received the centenary commemoration with a mixture of excitement and sadness.

Excitement, because they consider it a great honour for the county to host such a historic event, yet sad since the commemoration brings back distressing memories of the misery and suffering they were forced to endure as a result of two powerful foreign armies fighting in Taita Taveta.

The region was one of the epicenters of fighting between British and German forces and the devastating effects of WW1 are still evident in parts of Taita Taveta County.

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As they marked the historic event on Friday, local residents and leaders in the region appealed to the British and German governments to implement projects like education, health and water geared towards benefiting the local community who greatly suffered the effects of the war.

Various leaders said the community suffered massive economic loses through loss of life and destruction of property as a result of the war which was not of their own making.

One of the worst hit communities by the war was the Wakasigau community whose members were forcibly evicted and deported to Malindi as their land was converted into a battle field.

"One of our communities, the Kasigau sub-tribe in the region suffered deprivation following the forced eviction from their ancestral land by the British government," said County Deputy Governor Mary Kibuka.

Speaking on Friday at a prayer service held at the Taveta Military Cemetery, Ms Kibuka said this greatly affected the sub-tribe which to date lags behind in development as compared to the other communities in the region which were not as affected.

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"As a community that suffered some of the worst historical injustices in this country, we look forward to being allocated more resources to help us rebuild our region," she said.

Ms Kibuka also unveiled the new Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Taveta town.

The prayer service was led by St Paul’s Catholic Church Priest Father Gabriel Charo and also present were, various county MCAs, Taveta deputy County Commissioner Heribae Nkaduda, County Executive of Tourism and Trade, Stephen Masamo, area OCPD Gababa Darso, historian James Williamson and Kenya Regiment Association members.

Masamo said these centenary commemorations provide the basis for the newly launched battle tourism package and urged locals and the international community to visit the county.

“We are not celebrating but commemorating the day and are also urging the World to come visit the county where World War I was fought,” he said.

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The CEC said the first shot, which signified the war's spread into the region, was fired at the Taveta District Commissioner’s office on August 15 1914.

He said it devastated the locals who were caught in between the two powerful warring nations.

MANY GUESTS

"Today you can find the few remnants of the now disjointed and impoverished community living 65 kilometres South of Voi town, some in Mwatate district while others have been assimilated in Malindi, Mackinnon Township and then there is the lot that dispersed into Tanzania. It is absurd that locals were indiscriminately killed and deprived of their ancestral land then forced to live as squatters because their vast land was given to British soldiers as a reward by the colonial government,” Masamo said.

The CEC urged locals to take advantage of these commemorative celebrations saying the county has received confirmation from various envoys who will be attending the main event on August 28.

"We expect to receive numerous international visitors in the coming days as we prepare for the main event. We encourage our local businessmen to ensure they cash in on the coming windfall and urge residents to open up their homes and offer home stay options to the visitors as a way of benefiting from these events," he said.

Several MCAs urged Western countries to review travel advisories banning their citizens to travel to Kenya saying the country is safe.

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World War 1 Taita-Taveta OCPD
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