12.07.2018 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

Kenya’s Thimlich Ohinga Archaeological Site gains World Heritage status bringing the number of World Heritage sites in Kenya to seven

© National Museums of Kenya

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s 42nd session in June 2018 inscribed Kenya’s Thimlich Ohinga Archeological Site on the World Heritage List and Lake Turkana National Parks on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Thimlich Ohinga Archaeological Site was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List during the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee on 29 June 2018 in Manama, Bahrain along with 18 other natural and cultural heritage sites with “Outstanding Universal Value”.

Thimlich Ohinga is an exceptional example of large, well-preserved traditional dry-stone walled enclosures, and is typical of the first pastoral communities in the Lake Victoria Basin. The traditional settlements, which were built in the 16th century, exhibit indigenous ingenuity. They were constructed using undressed stone meticulously arranged in a traditional three-phase architectural technique and the walls dotted with buttresses for structural stability. The Ohinga (settlement) served as a fort for communities and livestock, and exhibits communal occupation by successive Bantu and Nilotic people.

This inscription comes after the “Thimlich Ohinga Cultural Landscape” nomination dossier was examined by the World Heritage Committee in 2015, but referred back to the State Party of Kenya for review according to World Heritage Committee Decision 39 COM 8B.8, which requested Kenya to reconsider the focus of the nomination category as an archaeological site rather than as a cultural landscape. UNESCO offered Kenya International Assistance from the World Heritage Fund in 2016-2017 to revise the nomination file. Through this support, local and international experts contributed to the review and completion of the nomination file for its inscription, including experts from the National Museums of Kenya, University of Nairobi, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, British Institute of Eastern Africa and Uppsulla University (Sweden). The archaeological site is managed by the National Museums of Kenya (under the National Museums and Heritage Act of 2006) in collaboration  with the local community. “With the inscription of Thimlich Ohinga, Kenya has a chance to showcase this outstanding heritage: an embodiment of prominence and permanence” said Dr. Hoseah Wanderi, a research scientist at the National Museums of Kenya, and the national focal point for the development the World Heritage nomination dossier.

During the same session, the World Heritage Committee inscribed Lake Turkana National Parks (Kenya) on the List of World Heritage in Danger in Decision 42 COM 7B.92. This decision was made due to the disruptive effects of the Gibe III Dam and Kuraz Sugar Cane development projects in Ethiopia on the flow and ecosystem of Lake Turkana.

The UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger is designed to inform the international community of conditions that threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List, and to encourage corrective action and international collaboration.

In its Decision for Lake Turkana, the Committee reiterated its recommendation made during its 40th session for the commissioning of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to evaluate the cumulative impact of the development projects in the Lake Turkana basin on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the affected property. The SEA will be used as a mechanism to assess the negative impacts of the developments and identify mitigation measures, to ensure sufficient water flow into the lake for conservation of its biodiversity and ecosystem.

There are currently 1092 natural and cultural heritage properties inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List; 95 of which are in the Africa Region. There are 54 properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, of which 16 are located in the Africa Region.  

In 2019, UNESCO and the African World Heritage Fund (UNESCO Category II Centre) will mobilize States Parties to the World Heritage Convention from the Africa Region to review the implementation of the World Heritage Convention on a regional basis for the Periodic Reporting process. The participants will also develop an Action Plan for World Heritage in the Africa Region.

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