Representatives from around Africa gather in Nairobi this week to
seek new ways of protecting World Heritage Sites threatened by conflict
and political instability on the continent. Africa is host to the
largest number of sites named as endangered by the United Nations.
The list of World Heritage Sites in danger includes 13 African sites spread among eight countries.
from 15 countries as well as global conservation groups and the U.N.
World Heritage Center are attending the seminar organized by the
African World Heritage Fund.
The director of historic sites for
the National Museums of Kenya, Mzalendo Kibunjia, says Africa is
wasting away some of its gifts to the rest of the world by failing to
protect these sites.
"If you take the world heritage lists of
about 900 sites, out of that, sites that we call 'World Heritage Sites
in Danger,' about half of those sites are in Africa," said Kibunjia.
"So we are saying, 'Yes, we have these jewels of the world, but
unfortunately no one is coming because these sites are in conflict
areas. How do we try to correct this situation?'"
Heritage Fund's director, Webber Ndoro, says that the number of sites
in danger is actually greater than the 13 listed by the United Nations
because that list does not contain a number of sites endangered
indirectly through political negligence and instability.
also looking at post-conflict [areas], particularly those countries
where the political upheaval have had a serious impact on the
management of World Heritage Sites. For example, we are looking at a
place like Zimbabwe, with sites like Victoria Falls which have been
affected by the political problems for the past ten years. And this
has led to a decline in tourism but also to neglect in the management
of the site," said Ndoro.
World Heritage Sites are picked upon
the basis of their cultural or natural importance to humanity. The
vast majority of the sites worldwide are chosen for cultural
significance, but most of the endangered sites in Africa are natural
Sites within conflict areas are protected under a
1954 Hague convention, but most of the continent's conflicts involve
rebel groups that pay little attention to international law.
says one of the goals of the Nairobi meeting is to push for site
conservation experts to bring the issue of endangered heritage sites to
the attention of the main political players in conflict areas.
are trying to find, who are these people that we have never talked
about," said Kibunjia. "Maybe heritage experts only talk to themselves
and they never saw the importance of attending peace meetings. So we
want to involve the international community, we want to involve
mediators, and tell them the importance of taking care of heritage. "
Five of the African heritage sites classified as being in danger are natural parks located in the Democratic Republic of Congo.