Bagamoyo aims for Heritage status

MWANZA, Tanzania – Tanzanian authorities are working towards including the town of Bagamoyo on the World Heritage site list.

Dr. Donatius Kamamba, the Tanzania Director of Antiquities, was speaking to East African Business Week recently.

The Antiquities Department submitted the application to the World Heritage Committee on February 20, 2006 with reference number 2095. If accepted, Bagamoyo would be the 8th Tanzania World Heritage site (Cultural).

Sources said usually the process takes longer, because several things are considered before one’s application is approved.

“Bagamoyo is not a world heritage site. Tanzania is working on the agenda of concerns on procedural matters,” Dr Kamamba said.

Bagamoyo is also the birthplace of Tanzania’s current President, Jakaya Kikwete.

As of now Tanzania has seven world heritage sites.

These include Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara, Serengeti National Park, Selous Game Reserve, Kilimanjaro National Park, Stone Town of Zanzibar and Kondoa Rock-Art Sites.

The World Heritage List includes 981 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage.

The properties are considered by the World Heritage Committee as having exceptional world value.

The sites include 759 cultural, 193 natural and 29 mixed properties in 160 States Parties.

As of September 2012, 190 States Parties have ratified the World Heritage Convention.

Bagamoyo is regarded as the main historical port whereby slaves had to be shipped abroad in about 160 years ago. It’s also believed to be the first East African town where the first Christian church was built.

What has attracted many historians is the 1,300 kilometre slave trade caravan from Central Africa, with destination at Bagamoyo, Zanzibar and later to Arab countries. In Tanzania it was the Ujiji (along Lake Tanganyika)-Bagamoyo route.

That is why the World Heritage Centre considers Bagamoyo as a “place of memory” for human suffering and humiliation caused by slavery, slave trade and the imposition of colonialism.

However, there are concerns that ongoing developments in investments at Bagamoyo (construction of a biggest port in East Africa by the Chinese company, airport, university, and an export processing zone) threaten the history of that town, strategically situated along the East African coast.

Such developments have been a concern for local environmentalists and historical conservationists.