Mombasa - 20th August 2018
We participated in a fascinating conference hosted by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and attended by representatives from the National Museums of Kenya including Dr. Mzalendo Kibunjia the Director General and Dr Purity Kiura, Director for Monuments, Mombasa County Government, Tsavo Heritage Trust, and CWGC Staff and Contractors.
James started the presentations with a background to the East African Campaign in British East Africa. Followed by Sigourney Lee – Conservation Officer at CWGC, who explained the history of the CWGC and some of the amazing work done maintaining, in perpetuity, the graves and memorials to
1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women in 23,000 locations in 153 countries.
She also explained some of the new best practice being used by the CWGC in maintaining the cemeteries and cleaning the 100 year old stone headstones.
Daniel Achini – Senior Technical Supervisor for the CWGC and based in Nairobi went on to explain some of what his job entails including the challenges faced by the CWGC in the 112 East African Cemeteries (inc Botswana, Dijubuti, and even Lesotho!) from vandalism of headstones, theft (from stone blocks to cemetery gates and Cross of Sacrifice), land grabbing (Kariakor Cemetery) to ensuring the gravel is sieved in the dry cemeteries to keep the looking as beautiful as those with grass.
Dr Purity Kiura and Dennis Milewa from the National Museums of Kenya explained that they are mandated to maintain the Kenya’s Heritage which recognises both Antiquities and Monuments. They also outlined the laws protecting and the process of gazetting monuments in Kenya.
David McDonald the Technical Manager for Africa at the CWGC told us about the First World War African Memorials and how using modern technology they have rehabilitated the Mombasa Memorial, replacing stolen pieces and repairing parts that have been vandalised. (As I write this project is nearly finished)
Raphael Igombo, Mohamed Zein and Ambrose Kingada from the National Museums of Kenya gave a presentation of ideas being developed by the National Museums of Kenya protection and development of some of the WWI sites including a proposed museum at Taveta.
Taibali Hamzali – Chairman of the Friends of Fort Jesus and an Architect closed the day by discussing Mombasa’s buildings and the changes in design in the Old Town and across the Island of Mombasa from the 1900s to the present day.