Lamu, KENYA: Lamu governor Fahim Twaha has stated that there are no plans to arrest automobile users operating in the Lamu old town which is also a world heritage site.
The old town was listed in 2001 by UNESCO as a world heritage site in recognition to its unique culture value and architecture.
However, the old town is now at risk of being de-listed due to immense westernization that has invaded the town and which puts at risk the heritage that resulted in its being listed in the first place.
The old town has now been placed on the World Monument Fund Watch List as being under threat from forces of nature and modernity.
Former Lamu governor Issa Timamy had banned the use of automobiles on the old town with intent to maintain its culture and heritage.
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.
Everything seemed perfect until the electioneering period started after which the town was flooded with all manner of vehicles and motorcycles majority of which were being used as campaign tools.
The situation has grown worse ever since with more and more automobiles being ferried into the town on a daily basis.
However speaking on Friday,Twaha said no one shall be arrested over the automobile ban until the county assembly passes laws regarding the same.
Twaha said he was aware of the huge presence of automobiles on the old town but expressed confidence that the county assembly will be able to come up with legislations that will restore the glory of the town.
“I am aware. There is increased use of vehicles, bicycles and motorcycles in Lamu town.We are looking forward to the County Assembly pass laws that will regulate all this so that we don’t lose the heritage this town has for years preserved.In the meantime, no one will be arrested for using vehicles or motorcycles in the town but I am in consultation with other officials over the same,” said Twaha.
Commenting on the matter,Lamu County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo said there was laxity in implementation of proposed by-laws concerning the issue in Lamu since the electioneering period in August.
Kitiyo expressed concern that with the over flow of automobiles that continue to pile up on the island daily,the town risks being blacklisted as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The county commissioner said the national government was on its part ready and willing to assist the county government to enforce by laws that will guard the heritage of the town which is a major tourist attraction.
“The political campaign season has seen all caution thrown to the wind as all manner of automobiles have fully been allowed back on the island.Lamu town as a heritage site must be protected at all costs.You know the by-laws are put in place by the county government. Our obligation as national government is only to assist the county government in enforcing such by-laws. So I want to assure you that we are ready on our part to assist in protecting the heritage site once the county government gives directions,” said Kitiyo.
Kitiyo urged Lamu residents to respect any related by-laws so that Lamu Old Town and heritage site is preserved the way it was anticipated.
“Lamu Old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and we don’t want to lose that touch. Let us cooperate in preserving the town,” he said.
Residents have complained that its difficult for foot goers to share the small streets on the town with vehicles and motorcycles and that as such,related accidents have become the order of the day.
“Nowdays,there is jam on Lamu island.We have to share these small and narrow streets with automobiles.There are the times when the streets are so jam packed that all you can do is stand and wait for it to clear out.Children often get knocked down by vehicles and motorbikes.Its no longer safe to walk on the streets anymore.This whole situation is chaotic.,”said Is’Haac Khatib.
Boda boda business is now booming on the island with a flood of motorcycles who will ferry you to your destination at a cost of between Sh.50-100.