15 May 2019

Kenya: Agency - Lamu Port a Threat to Existence of Historical Sites

Photo: Kalume Kazungu/Daily Nation
Lamu Fort, one of the old and historical buildings in Lamu County.

The Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor Project is a threat to key archaeological sites and monuments in Lamu County, the National Museums of Kenya has said.

The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) said that many of the archaeological sites and monuments, especially those in the mainland areas of Lamu, are on the verge of extinction due to the development at the LAPSSET site.

MONUMENTS

Speaking to the Nation on Wednesday, Coast Region Assistant Director in charge of Sites and Monuments Athman Hussein said that monitoring the archaeological sites and monuments in the region had become a challenge, many of them being in remote areas far away from Lamu Old Town.

Mr Hussein said despite efforts by NMK in and the Lamu County government to secure the sites, many people, including private developers, were still targeting the sites to undertake development.

He cited Pate ruins in Lamu East as the worst affected in the ongoing encroachment.

CHALLENGE

Mr Hussein said farming activities were also posing a challenge to the existence of ruins such as Takwa, Shanga, Manda and Siyu.

He said they had already secured little funding that would help in protecting and preserving the Lamu sites and monuments.

He, however, appealed for more funding from the government and other development partners to help fence off the vulnerable sites and monuments so as protect them from land grabbers.

"Various surveys on the Lamu sites and monuments have already been undertaken but unfortunately, no title deed has so far been issued. We are appealing to the National Land Commission (NLC) to issue title deeds for those sites and monuments to protect them from encroachers," said Mr Hussein.

He added: "We've already secured little funding and we're looking for more of such funds to enable us protect and monitor those sites."

SQUATTERS

He said among Kenya's 47 counties, Lamu is richest in terms of archaeological sites and monuments.

Mr Hussein said that preserving the sites was a challenge due to squatters in the region.

"Historical land injustices in Lamu have resulted to the problem of squatters. As a result, many squatters and farmers are now pushing for settlement in those sites and monuments," said Mr Hussein.

Lamu Fort Museums, Sites and Monuments Principal Curator Mohamed Mwenje said encroachment had made conservation and preservation efforts of the historical ruins in the region difficult.

Mr Mwenje said they had on many occasions witnessed conflicts between the protectors of the ruins and the local communities in places like Pate.

ANCESTRAL LAND

"It's hard for us to eject encroachers from the sites since many claim that the ruins are part of their ancestral land.

Mr Mwenje said it was only through the issuance of title deeds and fencing that the sites can be preserved.

"We're worried that before long, the entire ruins will be encroached. We urge the Ministry of Lands through NLC to issue title deeds," said Mr Mwenje.

During his visit to Lamu in 2015, NMK Director General Mzalendo Kibunjia had promised to ensure that the agency gets title deeds for all historical sites in the country.

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