July 14, 2020

Preserve Our Heritage, Council of Elders Tell Gov’t

Lamu Council of Elders Image: (Zubeir Athman)

By ZUBEIR ATHMAN

Email: thecoastnewspaper@gmail.com

The Lamu Council of Elders is agitating for the formation of a special committee to help in preserving the culture and heritage of the Lamu Archipelago from being wiped out by external and western influences.
The body is also pushing for its members to be included in the anticipated heritage committee to help achieve its mandate.
Speaking to journalists in Lamu Town, Lamu Council of Elders Deputy Chairman Mohamed Mbwana, expressed his concern  that the upcoming mega projects in the county such as the Sh 2.5 trillion Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor project would impacted negatively on the residents culture.
Mbwana who is a reknowed historian in the region mentioned that the intended Sh 200 billion Coal fired Power Plant and the Sh 21 billion Baharini Wind Power Project among others are likely going to affect Lamu’s heritage and culture once they become fully operation.
He urged the County Government of Lamu under Governor Fahim Twaha to consider establishing the special heritage committee and also formulate strict legislations that will help protect the status of Lamu as a whole.
According to the historian  at least 1.5 million people will be coming to Lamu to work in the various mega projects including the Lamu Port (LAPSSET) whose construction is ongoing at Kililana in Lamu West.
So far construction of the first berth at the port site in Kililana, Lamu West is complete with the second and third berths expected to be ready and functional before the end of the year.
The chairman advised it was high time that the county establishes the team of experts on culture and heritage matters to even help in the formulation of clear and stringent regulations that will protect Lamu’s heritage.
“The county leadership is silent despite the many external forces threatening to destroy our culture and heritage in Lamu. We are worried if same are not put in place to prevent erosion of Lamu rich culture.”
“I believe members of the Lamu Council of Elders are experts on heritage and history matters. I agitate that they be included in such a body,”  called Mbwana.
Lamu’s well kept heritage and culture continues to be the region’s biggest tourist attraction and the elders insist that there is need for the situation to be even better when mega projects in the region commence their operations.
The council’s Secretary-General Mohamed Athman said Lamu is currently being viewed as the next frontier in coming years and hence the need to urgently come with  the heritage committee to preserve our nature. 
Mr Athman said he believes the establishment of such a body will help to guard against individuals who are keen in introducing  foreign and suspicious traditions.

Lamu Old Town. Image (Courtesy)

On his part, Lamu Cultural Festival Promotional Group Chairman Ghalib Alwy advised the county government of Lamu to invest more in the annual festivals in Lamu which he said have successfully sold the region’s heritage and culture to the whole world.
“As part of a plan to cushion Lamu against any external influence that could be damaging especially to the culture and way of life of the people here, the county should invest more on the annual cultural festivals which help in influencing locals embrace their cultures in Lamu,” said Alwy.
Lamu was enlisted by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 2001 but it  is currently risking losing its heritage status owing to too much western influence.
The narrow alleyways in the Old Town only allow for movement by foot or on donkeys.
However Lamu town at the moment is a total contrast of the traditional town it was known for and is now flooded with motorcycles and vehicles, particularly the Tuktuks.
There is also an increased number of stores, stalls and shops along the seafront, a direct contravention of the UNESCO town requirements.

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