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Lamu's historical sites in dire need of restoration: NMK

Tuesday May 14 2019

Lamu Fort

Lamu Fort, one of the old and historical buildings in Lamu County. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

KALUME KAZUNGU
By KALUME KAZUNGU
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The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) has raised the alarm over the bad state of historical monuments and buildings within Lamu Old Town and the entire county, saying restoration is required urgently.

Lamu Old Town alone, which is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, has more than 1,200 traditional and old buildings which are key to the Lamu archipelago’s history and image.

But Mohamed Mwenje, Principal Curator of the Lamu Fort Museums, Sites and Monuments, said on Tuesday that 35 percent of the buildings are at risk of collapsing so repairs are necessary.

'EXCESSIVE DECAY'

Regarding Lamu Old Town, Mr Mwenje spoke of "extensive decay and the imminent collapse" of majority of the buildings.

He said he was worried that the buildings would cease to exist if measures were not taken to restore them.

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Lamu's historical monuments and buildings are major tourist attractions that have seen many local and international tourists visit every year.

They include the German Post Office which has been in existence for more than 50 years.

Lamu Fort

A view of Lamu Fort, one of the old and historical buildings in Lamu County. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

HIGH COSTS

Mr Mwenje noted the "very high" costs of restoring old, traditional buildings as the materials required are difficult to find.

He explained that this was one of the reasons why some owners had not undertaken maintenance or restoration projects, hence the quick degradation.

“Lamu Old Town has about 1,200 old structures. Most of them have existed since the late 17th century and we have some that are even older," he said.

"I can say that so far, 65 percent of these buildings are in fairly good condition because their owners have been able to put a few coins into their maintenance."

He added, “The remaining 35 percent are in [very poor conditions] and most have been abandoned. A good number are collapsing piece by piece because of lack of maintenance."

Mohamed Mwenje

Mohamed Mwenje, the Lamu Museum, Sites and Monuments Principal Curator, during an interview in his office on May 14, 2019. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Lamu Fort

A view of Lamu Fort, one of the old and historical buildings in Lamu County. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

APPEAL

Mr Mwenje said NMK, development partners such as the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the European Union (EU), and well-wishers had been trying to secure resources for restoring structures including Lamu Fort and the Lamu Swahili Museum.

He appealed for more help, saying "if something isn’t done we will not only lose the historical aspect of Lamu as a cultural heritage site but we shall also have to say goodbye to tourists".

"We’re therefore appealing to other development partners and well-wishers to continue [helping with] the restoration so we can preserve Lamu for another 700 years."

In 2016, NMK announced that at least Sh 100 million was required to restore all monuments and historical buildings in Lamu.