The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is training government officials from Somalia in the process of enlisting heritage and cultural sites.
Kenya is the leading country in Sub-Saharan Africa with the highest number of heritage and cultural sites (10) that have been recognized by UNESCO.
Six heritage experts from Somalia are in the coastal city of Mombasa for the training by the NMK officials. In 2020, Somalia ratified the UNESCO convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972) as well as ratifying the convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage (2002).
Kenya ratified the convention in 1991 and so far has managed to have 7 sites inscribed in the list of world heritage sites.
They include Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Lake Turkana national parks, Mount Kenya national Park and Forest, Lamu Old Town and the sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests.
Others are the Thimlich Ohinga archeological site in Migori and the Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley consisting of Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementaita.
Cultural Programmes Officer at UNESCO regional office in East Africa Judy Ogana said that the experts undergoing the training were looking to inscribe world heritage natural properties in Somali.
“Over the years, we have amassed a lot of experience and have been able to move properties from a tentative list that is developed by state parties of the properties they want enlisted by Unesco,” said Ogana.
She mentioned Fort Jesus Museum in Mombasa as one of the heritage sites that remained a popular attraction to both local and international visitors.
She however said experts undertake a complex process to deduce if a site has outstanding universal value before being enlisted as a UNESCO heritage site.
“What we are doing here is to build capacity on how to develop a tentative exercise for the country before establishing its suitability for enlisting,” said Ogana.
Ogana added that a site proposed for enlisting has to have an outstanding universal value as a condition to be elevated as a UNESCO heritage site.
Hoseah Wanderi who heads the national focal point world heritage convention said Somalia has a big potential with the sites they are proposing for enlisting.
“The only challenge they have is the amount of damage done to the sites due to the thirty-year-long civil war that broke out in 1991,” he added.
“The war and political instability has made it difficult to have stable institutions, that is why we are here to build their capacity and train them on how to go about with the process,” said Wanderi.
Director General of the Somali National Museum Osman Gedow said that the training was important to them as they wanted to have a better understanding of the preservation of heritage sites in Kenya in order to take the knowledge back to their country.
Gedow said that they expected the list to be ready by end of January next year, adding that so far, they have about 12 natural sites they wanted enlisted.
He noted that there is a need to identify Somali’s heritage sites for documentation and preservation for the benefit of the future generation.
Director of Planning and Cooperation at Somali Academy of Science, Culture and Arts Ahmed Mohamed reiterated that Somali is not only a place of war and other calamities but also a place of rich culture and heritage.
“For the last five years, Somalia has been working closely with Unesco to rescue our heritage sites we pride in as a country despite the war,” said Mohamed.
He added that they had incorporated the youth in all aspects of culture and heritage preservation in the country as they played a crucial role in the storage, preservation and transfer of knowledge.
By Mohamed Hassan