OLD TOWN A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE

Key Lamu historical sites, monuments on verge of collapse

NMK said the sites and monuments are in dire need of restoration and repair so as to save them from collapsing.

In Summary

• Lamu Old Town which was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2001 has over 1,200 traditional and old buildings. 

• Many of the structures have been in existence for more than 50 years having been in place since the 17th century.

The National Museums of Kenya has raised the alarm over the poor state of historical sites and monuments in Lamu Old Town.

NMK said the sites and monuments are in dire need of restoration and repair so as to save them from collapsing.

Lamu Old Town which was listed as UNESCO world heritage site in 2001 has over 1,200 traditional and old buildings which are listed as key to the archipelago’s history and image.

 

Speaking in his office on Wednesday, Lamu Fort Museums, Sites and Monuments principal curator Mohamed Mwenje said 35 per cent of all historical buildings in the town are on verge of collapsing.

Mwenje said there is urgent need to repair the buildings that have decayed over the years.

Many of these structures have been in existence for more than 50 years having been in place since the 17th century.

The German post office for instance is over 55 years old.

Historical monuments and buildings are a major tourist attraction in Lamu.

The curator said the cost of restoring a traditional building was extremely high as it requires the use of traditional and outdated materials which are hard to come by.

Therefore, due to the high maintenance cost of these structures, the owners are not in a position to keep them up to the required standards leading to their degradation.

 

In 2016, the NMK announced that at least Sh100 million was required to restore all monuments and historical buildings in Lamu.

“Lamu old town has over 1,200 old structures many of which have been here from the 17th century.Only about 65 can be said to be in stable condition, the rest are on the verge of collapsing and need repairing," Mwenje said.

He said a number of the sites and monuments have collapsed due to lack of maintenance.

Mwenje said the NMK was working closely with development partners like the Swedish International Development Agency-SIDA and the European Union-EU in trying to secure resources that have gone into assisting the local community in restoring historical buildings including the Lamu Fort and the Lamu Swahili Museum.

He appealed for more help in restoring the monuments and sites saying is left unattended, the situation would spill over and affect the tourism sector.

“We not only stand to lose the cultural heritage aspect of Lamu people but also have to say good bye to tourists who come to see this sites.We need to be able to preserve these structures for another 700 years or even more,” Mwenje said.