Plans are underway to inscribe the iconic archaeological ruins of Gede in County Kilifi as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.

The Secretary General of the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO (KNATCOM), Dr Evangeline Njoka, revealed that the site was considered for the prestigious recognition after meeting key cultural and natural criteria drawn up by UNESCO for heritage sites.

A section of the Gede Ruins which is to be declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Courtesy picture.

In an exclusive interview, Dr Njoka told Kenya News Agency that his office was working closely with UNESCO to expedite the process ahead of the official announcement.

“The process has been underway for some time. We hope it will be concluded shortly before the official notification,” she added.

Dr Njoka observed that the move would further cement the 600-year-old Swahili settlement ruins as one of the top tourist destinations globally.

The The ruins trace its origin to the 12th century with theories indicating that the inhabitants deserted their property due to the battle between the Arab rulers of Mombasa and Malindi and attacks by raiders from the Orma community.

Dr Njoka said the ruins of Gede were on the provisional list of regions of the country that had been proposed to UNESCO for the prestigious enlistment.

UNESCO inscribes cultural or natural monuments that it deems worthy of preservation in the lists of World Heritage Sites because of their universal value to humanity for present and future generations.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites has outlined five steps that must be taken before such sites can be listed as World Heritage.

A State Party to UNESCO must undertake an inventory of its significant natural and cultural heritage sites and monuments and submit the list to UNESCO for inscription within the next 5-10 years for review by the World Heritage Committee.

The provisional list containing the names of sites and monuments suggested by the States Parties is transmitted to the World Heritage Centre, which also guides the countries in the collection of watertight data so that the proposed sites can be inscribed.

The center reviews the nomination dossier before forwarding it to advisory bodies including a representative of the World Heritage Convention, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), for assessment and review.

The World Heritage Committee examines the list and makes a final decision on the inscription of proposed sites and monuments which must have comprehensible universal value and meet one of the selection criteria.

Dr Njoka noted that the Gede ruins have met most of the stipulated criteria, adding that his commission and the National Museum of Kenya (NMK) have presented a strong case for its inclusion in the list of eighteen sites. of the country’s world heritage.

“We have done a lot of paperwork to ensure that the archaeological site that bears the rich history of our coastal communities is enlisted as the last World Heritage Sites of our beloved nation,” she said.

KNATCOM collaborated with Africa Digital Heritage, a Nairobi-based non-profit organization to undertake digital documentation of the ruins.

“Our approach to digitizing Gede will seek to preserve both tangible and intangible history. We want to document the structures as they appear today while situating the ruins in the context of current community life,” the agency said on its website.

The digitization process involved 360-degree panoramic tours of the ruins, photographs of the site and artifacts within the ruins, video interviews with the local community, among others.

The KNATCOM Secretary General added that her commission and other partners will ensure that sites and monuments with Kenya’s rich history are protected and preserved for the posterity of the nation.

Kenya has four cultural sites namely Lamu Old Town, Fort Jesus, Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests and Thimlich Ohinga Archaeological Site and three natural sites; Mount Kenya National Park Lake Turkana National Park and Kenya Lakes System in the Great Rift Valley (Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementaita) UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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