Underwater cultural heritage institute set for Coast

There are only three fully-fledged underwater archaeologists in Kenya

In Summary

•Resource centre to be built at either Mombasa or Malindi

•Kenya to ratify the 2001 Unesco Convention on promotion and protection of underwater cultural heritage  

Sports CAS Hassan Noor and Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi during the ministerial conference on underwater archaeology heritage protection in Malindi
UNDERWATER HERITAGE: Sports CAS Hassan Noor and Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi during the ministerial conference on underwater archaeology heritage protection in Malindi

The first underwater cultural heritage institute will soon be set up at either Mombasa or Malindi. 

Eastern African states have also resolved to ratify the 2001 Unesco Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage is a treaty that was adopted on November 2, 2001.

The convention obligates party states to cooperate and protect underwater cultural heritage that has been facing major threats.

On Monday, Sports CAS Hassan Noor told a regional ministerial conference in Malindi that there was a need for proper training on the subject that has been neglected for years.

Hassan said only Madagascar out of 13 Eastern Africa countries had ratified the treaty. Globally, 60 countries have signed the treaty.

Kenya will set up an institution soon to show its commitment  to conduct underwater cultural heritage training programmes. There are only three underwater archeologists and a few coastal archeologists in the country.

Heritage expert George Abungu said, “Dominant powers in the world have knowledge of the seas, because the sea is a route, rather than a barrier.”

Prof Abungu said East African countries have the capacity to conduct research and programmes for underwater archaeology.

Constance Kinyatu, Tanzania's assistant minister of Heritage, said states are being lobbied to ratify the convention.

Unesco Eastern Africa regional director Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta said there is goodwill among the states and proposed the inclusion of national commissions, which should be given assigned tasks. “We are vulnerable if we don’t do anything. We need regular follow-ups,” she said.

Partner states are expected to give feedback in June at the Unesco headquarters in Paris.

They intend to do resource mapping on more than 3,000 kilometres of coastline from Somali to Mozambique.

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi said several underwater surveys have been undertaken, most of them in his county.

“Ngomeni shipwreck, now the oldest shipwreck in sub-Saharan Africa, is located in Malindi, Kilifi county, and it has attracted a lot of interest from all over the world,” he said.

Kingi said he has developed partnership with the National Museums of Kenya to protect and promote cultural heritage, including research and training of personnel.

“These partnerships should be extended further to sharing of technical information, knowledge and resources between international institutions and countries.”

He called for increased awareness on underwater resources to combat treasure hunting and build rapport among communities where cultural heritages are rightly safeguarded.