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Jealously safeguard heritage sites, our top national treasures

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It is unfortunate to read that Kenyatta House in Lodwar, Turkana County, has been neglected yet it holds an important part of the history of Kenyans’ struggle against British imperialism.

This is where Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was jailed together with four of the Kapenguria Six in separate but identical houses in the same compound.

Turkana boasts many historical feats. First, it holds a connection with the country’s liberation from the British colonial rule.

Secondly, it houses Lake Turkana National Park, which was inscribed onto the Unesco World Heritage List in 1997.

Thirdly, it has one of the longest living histories on earth and recent fossil evidence unearthed at Koobi Fora has led to the Lake being referred to as ‘The Cradle of Mankind’.

In the Kenya Vision 2030, under the economic and macro pillar lies tourism, one of the targets is Eden Cradle of Humankind, whose broad objective is to position the Lake Turkana Basin as the renowned place for human origin while opening it up for economic growth and poverty alleviation.

For a county that holds such a rich history and economic potential, the national government ought to go above and beyond the normal to guard such a heritage site.

Having categorised Kenyatta House as a national museum, it should note that preserving the culture of the country strengthens community engagement, promotes cultural diversity and creates new job opportunities for the less developed communities.

In Cape Town, the Robben Island housed Nobel laureate and first elected black South African president Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 of the 27 years he was jailed by the apartheid regime there.

The buildings on the island are a reminder of its sad history and also show the power of the human spirit, freedom and the victory of democracy over oppression.

There are daily guided tours by several former prisoners, who speak openly of their experiences on the island.

The stroke of genius allows visitors to interact first-hand with ex-detainees with the valuable history at their fingertips.

Indeed, it is worth noting that Lodwar residents appreciate the jewel in their midst and have appealed to the Tourism ministry not to neglect it.

Let there be visible signage that clearly identifies Kenyatta House. As it may be impossible to get the former prisoners to narrate their ordeal, let a booklet or even pamphlet be published to be given out to visitors.

Information boards, blown-up pictures of past prisoners can also be put up in the houses to tell the real story.

The Turkana County Government portal is a gateway for local and international tourists and should have adequate and updated information.

Lastly, let the ministry form a committee to protect and promote heritage sites. The National Museums of Kenya should get serious with this site. Cultural sites are worth saving for their intrinsic value.