Bagamoyo: But still a chance for recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

After years of preparation, especially by the Swedish development aid organization Sida, on February 20, 2006 the new World Heritage "East African Slave and Trade Route" was finally put on the official list of proposals for a new World Heritage Site - the prerequisite for later recognition by UNESCO.

After international criticism of the paved road planned a few years ago through the UNESCO World Heritage Site Serengeti and the criticism of uranium mining and the construction of a hydropower plant in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Selous, the Tanzanian government's plan for a further new World Heritage Site has not been serious to this day pursued further.

However, the proposal is still on UNESCO's official proposal list today:


The United Republic of Tanzania

Date of Submission: 20/02/2006
Category: Cultural
Submission prepared by: Antiquities Department
Coordinates: From Bagamoyo S 6 26 - E 38 54 to Ujiji, Kigoma S4 54 - E 29 40
Ref.: 2095


Until, not even 150 years ago, millions of Africans had to bear a cruel fate. They were captured by slave hunters, chained together and forced to walk some times hundred of kilometers to be sold for example to planters who used them as cheap labour in their fields. Central and East Africa was one of the main areas where the slave hunters and traders, most of them Arabs made their shade deals. They caught their victims e.g. in some areas which is today parts of Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Western and Central parts of what is today Tanzania. The Slaves were brought to the coast and from there to the spice island of Zanzibar and many were sold further to the Arab countries, Persia, and India, Mauritania and Reunion. Officially, the slave trade was forbidden in 1873 under British pressure, but it went on secretly for several years.

One of the routes that were used by the traders’ caravan started in Ujiji at the shore of Lake Tanganyika. It went over 1200 kilometers and ended in Bagamoyo just opposite of Zanzibar on main land Tanzania. Many experts view this as the main route of mainly three that were documented for East Africa. By now the list includes the Ujiji-Bagamoyo route as a whole. The idea is not only to protect the still visible reminds of the dark past like Arab Forts and other historic buildings or parts of the route that are existing, but also to intensify the research around the topic, to document the memories about the era and to preserve the culture and the traditions of the communities living along the route.

In this regard, there are possibilities of Trans-national Nomination with neighbouring countries like Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Mozambique. This possibility will be investigated during the nomination process.

Six centres have been identified along the central slave route to include Bagamoyo, Mamboya, Mpwapwa, Kilimatinde, Kwihara and Ujiji.


Due to its location along the Indian Ocean and being a major harbor and town along the coast of Tanzania that played a key role in the East Africa Slave trade; Bagamoyo is a “place of memory” for human suffering and humiliation caused by Slavery and the Slave trade and the imposition of European colonialism. The population of Bagamoyo groups is the result of the interaction and fusion of different ethnic groups from the interaction and fusion of different ethinic groups from the hinterland and immediate coastal built especially the Wazaramo, Wadoe, Wakwere and Wazigua and the interiors especially Wanyamwezi and Wamanyema. Bagamoyo serves as the terminal which starts from Ujiji. From Bagamoyo, slaves were shipped to Zanzibar where the slave market used to be Important slave trade evidence include slave and slave descendants, buildings such as Caravan Serai, Von Wissman block, Old market, Customs house and the Old fort. Also the freedom village at the R.C. Mission premises and the RC Museum that has enough documentation


Located in Morogoro Region; Kilosa District is a very old settlement. Historical landmarks include mango stretch plantations, slave and slave traders descendents, graveyard for the Wanyamwezi, remains of Anglican Church and an area where the house belonging to one slave trade was built. Cards, coins and domestic utensils are available as well.


Located in Mpwapwa District, Dodoma Region in central Tanzania Important landmarks include part of the path at Vinga’we Village still visible and in use. Others include the Anglican Church built at a place where the first church was as evidence of missionaries who fought against slave trade. Descendants of slaves and slave traders are also part of the present community.


Located in Manyoni District, Singida Region. Kilimatinde is another important place on the route where caravan rested at a well. The village with Arabic house, market and late the seat for the German administrative is an important place for information along the route. There existing small Arabic houses that are abandoned.

Kazeh (Tabora)

Kazeh was established by traders involved in the East Africa slave and Ivory trade on the area given to the traders chief Fundikara of Unyanayembe in rapidly development into a key market centre located as it was at an interaction between the trading routes to the coast and those further inland to the Congo and north to what is today Burundi. By 1871, it was estimated to have a population for 5000, by the 1890s the population had grown to about 20,000. The only building of significance that has survived is the Kwihara Livingstone Tembe.

The Tembe was built by a wealth Arab Slave trader in 1857. The owner gave it to Dr. Livingstone. The building contribution continued to be throughout the colonial period, and was pronounced historical monuments one hundred years later, in 1957 when also major repairs were done on it. Other evidence is a mosque and residence near the Tembe, a Well, Mango trees, and coconut and date tree plantations.


Ujiji was the last major trading center of the central of Caravan Trade Route located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. It was a trading centre for slave and ivory coming from different parts of Lake Tanganyika, including Eastern region of Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. By 1876, Stanley estimated that Ujiji had a population of 3,000.

It is located within Kigoma Township, 5 km west of Kigoma Railway station. Important land marks are a site of formal port (no longer existing) coconuts and Mango Tree Avenue, Usagara grounds where slaves used to be held and auctioned and a site where the house of the former slave trade by the name of Tippu Tip used. A path running between Ujiji seminary and Kaluta Primary school through Kagera village to Luiche and beyond is clearly seen and improved by big historic Mango trees on both sides.


President Kikwete at UNESCO General Assembly: "We have to hurry"

At the 34th UNESCO General Conference in Geneva on October 22nd, 2007, the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete emphasized the vital role of education in development and the importance of monument protection. In front of over 2000 delegates from 193 UNESCO member countries, including numerous heads of state and over 200 ministers, Kikwete described education as "the key to a country's development". Tanzania would invest a lot in the education sector, but suffer from "the shortage of teachers, the shortage of teachers' apartments and the shortage of teaching materials".

"Preservation of History"

In terms of culture, Kikwete expressly welcomed UNESCO's support in creating the new UNESCO World Heritage Site “slave route” from the great inland lakes to Zanzibar. According to Kikwete, it is "about the documentation and preservation of the history and the significant relics of the East African slave route".

Kikwete welcomes new "Road to Independence" UNESCO World Heritage Site

Kikwete also welcomed the UNESCO project to create a “Road to Independence”, which is mainly to be located in southern Africa: “I am so happy that this important period in the history of our beloved continent is being recorded and preserved should. Many of the actors have never written about it and many have died, ”said Kikwete. There are only a few survivors left and one must hurry to "collect the information they remember before they too close their eyes and die".

Bagamoyo would not only be an important part of the “East African Slave Route”, but also a new UNESCO World Heritage Site “Road to Independence”. For many years the headquarters of the liberation organization Frelimo from Mozambique was in Bagamoyo. The later President Samora Machel organized the liberation struggle of his country against the Portuguese colonial rule from Bagamoyo and a high-ranking government delegation still travels to Bagamoyo every year on the day of Mozambique's independence.

The former Frelimo headquarters was halfway between Bagamoyo and Kaole. Leading members of other liberation organizations were also trained here, e.g. from Zimbabwe.

Africa underrepresented so far

In Geneva, Kikwete also mentioned that of a total of over 800 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, fewer than 50 are in Africa. However, Africa has significantly more cultural and natural sites that are worth protecting and that would benefit from being included on the list. Kikwete invited UNESCO to support the process of greater recognition of African world cultural and natural sites.


Case Study: Bagamoyo

From D.M.K. Kamamba and Ulrich Malisius (ICOMOS Tanzania)

Bagamoyo is a small coastal town with a natural harbour, 70 kilometres north of Dar es Salaam. It is located on the Zanzibar Channel, just opposite the Island of Zanzibar. The relation to Zanzibar was very strong in history, because most of the slave trade, ivory trade and expeditions of traders and explorers from and into the interior of East Africa were organised through Bagamoyo. Bagamoyo was at that time the most important city of mainland Tanganyika and the most important harbour in East Africa. When the colony of German East Africa was established in 1888, Bagamoyo was chosen as the capital. But in 1891 the capital was transferred to Dar es Salaam, due to better harbour facilities.

The heritage of Bagamoyo consists of a mixture of German colonial buildings, buildings and facilities related to the slave trade and slave route, and buildings of the merchants and financiers of Indian origin. One outstanding example of the built heritage is the Old Boma of Bagamoyo (administrative headquarter). It was built by the colonial administration and finished in 1897. The building served as the regional administrative headquarter for both the German and the British colony. After independence, it served as the seat of the District Commissioner. The original roof construction was altered in a questionable way, which created maintenance problems. The pitched roof with a long roof overhang was removed and a flat roof introduced. The building is constructed with thick walls of coral stones with lime mortar and lime plaster, very similar to the Arab-Islamic buildings in the Stone Town of Zanzibar. However, the slabs are of a specific German type: I-beams with vaulted stone slabs. All the iron beams are now corroded and the slabs have to be renewed completely. The building style is a unique blend of Islamic-Arabic and European elements, monumental symmetry and arrangement of the rooms and spaces (U-type floor plan). The site is close to both the town centre and the beach, with a splendid open public-park and landscape between the building and the beach.

Due to neglected maintenance, part of the slab collapsed in 1998 and the building has been abandoned since then. Several attempts to save the structure were initiated by the Department of Antiquities, but have not shown any positive results so far - the building is too big, complicated and costly for the Tanzanian Government. Foreign assistance is needed, but foreign donors are very reluctant to assist in financing the project, most of them giving priority to programmes such as health, education or infrastructure. Additionally it takes time to establish a well-organised project concept with the government. Also private investors may be reluctant to be involved in such a big investment. It is an open question as to whether or not the building can be saved before it is too late, the speed of deterioration being so fast.

It would be a big loss to the heritage of Bagamoyo if this building with its history, its outstanding architectural and aesthetic qualities, its supreme location at the sea front, were to disappear. The possibilities for re-use are very good, with the potential for use as a hotel, conference centre, museum or cultural centre. The public land in front could be re-established as a botanical garden or used for agricultural production.Not only this building, but also the entire heritage of Bagamoyo is threatened. Many owners of the residential buildings, mostly of Tanzanian-Indian origin, are absent and have lost interest in their property, leaving poor tenants, often without water and electricity and with leaking roofs. Until it is understood that the buildings have a cultural and commercial value, especially with ongoing tourism development, it will be too late for many buildings unless emergency repair is undertaken soon.


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