By Charles Ogallo.
The UNESCO’s World Heritage committee has finally inscribed Fort Jesus National Monument into the World Heritage sites list after a spirited campaign from Kenya.
The fort formally received recognition from the World body in its 35th Session held recently in Paris, France, for its outstanding Universal Value.
This will be the sixth Kenyan heritage site to make into the UNESCO list. The other sites are the Mijikenda Sacred Kaya Forests, Lamu Island, Lake Turkana National Parks, Mt Kenya National Parks and the lakes systems of the Rift Valley.
The historical Fort Jesus widely known for its visible reminder of the once powerful Portuguese presence in the Kenyan Coast, but by far most impressive is the only Portuguese fort in the coastal city of Mombasa.
Fort Jesus , Mombasa has been an exceptional symbol of the interchange of cultural values and influences between and among people of African , Arabs, Asians , Turkish , Persians and European origins whose lives have been touched by the presence and role of this imposing structure.
The fort was built by the Portuguese at the end of the 16th century and used by them for over 100 years, and bears testimony of the first successful attempt by Western civilization to control the Indian Ocean trade routes which had remained under Eastern influence over several millennia.
According to the Museum chief Curator Jimbi Katana ,the fort in its over 400 years of existence has remained unchanged in its original design and layout throughout the various periods of occupation and use , thus maintaining its integrity and originality.
Gazetted as a national monument by Kenya Government under the National Museums and Heritage Act and managed by the National Museums of Kenya, the custodian of the country’s heritages, Fort Jesus stands guard at the entrance of the dhow harbor overlooking the Mombasa City’s Old Town as the most complete and the finest example of a 16th century fortress to survive in the Eastern part of Africa.
Before the World Heritage committee could inscribe the Fort into the list of the World Heritage sites, the Kenyan delegations led by her permanent Secretary, Ministry of state for National Heritage and Culture Dr Jacob Ole Marion is said to had put a strong defence in its favor.
In his statement later, the Kenyan Permanent Secretary said the listing of Fort Jesus will bring sharp focus , both at the national and international levels, the conservation status of the fort.
He added that the inscription will allow for the ownership and greater participation by the local communities around Mombasa Old Town and the entire city.
The area residents recieved the news of insciption with joy and expectations. A number of them said they expect the fort to attract many tourists across the globe to visit the heritage site and in return leave them with direct and indirect earnings.
"This is our Fort, if many Wazungus (Tourists)are going to come here, we are going to benefit alot. I shall sell alot of my wares to them" Said Mohamed, a hawker at Fort said.