Automobiles back on Lamu old town despite ban


Lamu, KENYA: The number of automobiles operating on the Lamu old town continues to grow by the day despite an existing ban that bars all vehicles,motorcycles and bicycles from the town.

In August last year, the county government of Lamu banned all automobiles including vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles from the Lamu Old Town as a measure to preserve the cultural heritage of the town, which is said to be at the verge of extinction due to excessive westernization.

The only vehicles allowed to operate of the island are the Lamu hospital ambulance, a fire engine and the county garbage collection tractor.

Other vehicles allowed include the county commissioner’s official GK vehicle and motorcycles belonging to the ministry of public health, water board and Kenya Power-KPLC offices and that of the county government.

In 2001, Lamu Old Town was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in recognition of its unique cultural value.

Efforts to preserve the old town’s heritage remain in high gear with fears that too much westernization could erode the culture hence the need to bar automobiles.

Residents of the old town have for decades only relied on donkey transport for movement owing to the narrow streets of the town.

However since the number of automobiles has considerably grown especially following the installation of cabro pavements on the town streets.

The number is believed to even be higher compared to what was witnessed before the ban.

Lamu governor Issa Timamy noted that the number of automobiles on the island had greatly increased and asked the county commissioner Joseph Kanyiri to have all automobile owners on the island arrested and their automobiles confiscated.

Timamy stated that the ban on automobiles is still active and that anyone who does not ply the regulation must be prosecuted.

He asked the police to cooperate with the county enforcement officers in ensuring the ban is effected and respected by all.

“Lamu Old Town has tiny and narrow footpaths that can only allow for movement by foot or donkeys. In addition,this is a heritage site and there is need for it to appear so. A lot has been put in place to ensure the culture of this great Old Town is preserved and so we are not going to allow few individuals to destroy what has taken decades to preserve,” said Timamy.

Residents have also complained of accidents occurring when automobiles share the same streets as those on foot considering the narrow nature of the streets.

“several children have been knocked down by speeding motorcycles or scooters.The streets weren’t just meant for automobiles and we only wish those with such could understand that.You can no longer walk safely on the streets without having a vehicle of motocycle miss knocking you down by a whisker and its not okay,”said Mukhdhar Ahmed.

The ban was also meant to decongest movement on the streets of the old town after it emerged that the automobiles were a major cause of traffic on the streets.

Despite the ban and threats for legal action,not a single person has been arrested or charged since the ban was introduced in August last year.

The Lamu Old Town was listed by the UNESCO international Organization as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 and has also been listed on the World Monument Fund Watch List as being under threat from forces of nature and modernity.