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Picking the spoils of war long after the guns fall silent

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BerichtGeplaatst: 12 Aug 2011 17:22    Onderwerp: Picking the spoils of war long after the guns fall silent Reageer met quote

Picking the spoils of war long after the guns fall silent
Published on 10/07/2011
By Philip Mwakio

Overgrown grass in a land dotted with acacia trees in Taita-Taveta stand over what was once a fortified military barrack, where a platoon of British forces took on the German army, who had pitched tent in the nearby Tanganyika (present-day) Tanzania.

The curios names of the places echo that past: There is Salaita (derived from slaughter) Hill, nestling between Mt Kilimanjaro and the Pare Mountains. Then there is Maktau (from mark-time), which hints at military drill, and Mwashoti (corruption of more shots).

All these served as battle fields during World War I and II.

It is this past that the management of Sarova Group of Hotels and Lion Bluff Lodge have transformed into Kenyaís newest tourist attraction sites.

Military hardware

The Sarova Taita Hills and Salt Lick Lodge Manager, Willy Mwadillo sums this up with philosophical wit: History never ends, it only repeats itself.

Recent finds within the large expanse of short shrubs and acacia, including military hardware, have added to the fascination of the place.

Among the discovered items are munitions with date of manufacture as 1914, heavy duty beer and juice bottles, British Army uniform, buttons and spent cartridges Ė all estimated to be 100 years old.

"We want to give visitors staying with us a chance to relive both the First and Second World Wars by visiting the sites where the real battles were fought," Mwadillo said.

To acquaint themselves with best knowledge in battlefield tour guiding, Mwadillo and select staff from the hotel took part in a week-long training by certified battlefield tour guide trainer, James Wilson.

Wilson, himself an acclaimed hotelier once served as General Manager of the Sarova Taita Hills and Salt Lick Lodges when both were under the stable of the Hilton Group of Hotels.

In Africa, Kenya is following a track well taken by South Africa in transforming battlefields into tourist attraction sites.

"With the opening up of these sites here, we hope to go a long way in putting Kenyan tourism on the international map as a destination that offers not only beach and safari, but also history through the battlefields tours,íí Mwadillo added.

He said they have written to the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) for support and guidance in establishing a dedicated battlefield tour package.

During a recent visit, a team of journalists came face to face with horrors of the wars that were fought over 100 years ago.

Enemy movements

In a number of locations which are to be designated tourist attractions, there were long trenches and open castles Ė complete with guard positions Ė with a hill on the outskirts of Maktau trading centre serving as an outpost where British soldiers and their allies set up base to monitor enemy movements.

The Maktau Hill offers a vantage position with a clear view that has small boulders placed atop each other to serve as barrier against enemy fire.

Mwadillo points out that they plan to move fast and map out the areas of interest.

The Maktau Hill served as a focal point for key British military operations against the Germans, then known as the Schutztruppe.

Historians say the British wanted to have control over its only source of natural water that emanated from springs high above the Vuria hills.

Fighting during the first World War was vicious as European powers enlisted the support of Africans, Indians and Arabs from the region.

Some of those killed in action are buried in what looks like a mass grave in a market graveyard near the now disused Maktau Railway Station that formed part of the Voi-Taveta railway line.

The Commonwealth War Memorial manages the graves.

As for the sites to be used for tourist visitations, only informational banners and billboards will be erected.

"There will be no fencing as this will amount to giving the place an artificial look. We shall only have replicas of trenches alongside the visible ones and erect boards with information on each of the places of interest,íí Mwadillo explains.
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