Conservator of Antiquities, Archaelogist Reinfrida Justine Kapela has sounded a warning to international community and Tanzania in particular on the vandalism going on in Bagamoyo historical sites.

The historical city of Bagamoyo falling apart

24 Feb 2008; By Lucas Lukumbo

She warns that if it continues unchecked, the historical town, rich history would to a greater extent be tempered with. Staff Writer Lucas Lukumbo who visited the historical town reports…

Bagamoyo stands to lose its tourism credentials very soon if rampant vandalism on the historical sites is left to continue, a tourist who had cancelled his visit in Kenya following the unrest and opted Tanzania as his tourism destination told this reporter.

James Lucas Rothing, was one of a group of tourists who had come to admire the Bagamoyo historical town lying 70 kilometres, North of Dar es Salaam along the splendid sandy beach of the Indian Ocean.

Bagamoyo boasts one of East Africa’s largest assembly of 18th century architecture. It played a pivotal role in the East African slave trade. It is a place of memory for human suffering and humiliation caused by slavery and the slave trade and the imposition of colonialism.


According to the conservator at the Caravan Serai in Bagamoyo, a historical loading station, storage and accommodation for slave caravans to and from the interior, Archaelogist Reinfrida Justine Kapela, historical buildings are being shorn of their doors and windows.

She says the vandalism is being done by jobless youths, mostly from outside Bagamoyo who sell the items to tourists and even some of the hotel owners in the area.

Hotel owners are the main buyers of these stolen historical items from the dilapidated historical sites.

They usually put them in their hotels as an attraction to tourists. Even some of the doors find their way into Bagamoyo hotels, she says.

She says some of the historical doors are sold to the tune of Sh 3 million and the hotel owners are ready to buy such items.

To discourage the practice, the archeologist says her department has been educating the youths on the importance of the historical sites and ways of protecting the sites from more vandalism.

“We have educated more than 50 youths the importance of the historical sites to the nation,“ she says adding that even the taxi-drivers have been educated.

“It is these taxi-drivers who send the tourists to the historical sites. Teaching them on the protection of such sites would to a great extend reduce theft,“ she says.


She says the most vandalized building is the German Boma. The two-storey impressive building topped by crenellations, constructed in a U shape was constructed in 1897. It was built by the Germans as the colonial administration headquarters of the first capital of the German East Africa and the Governors’ residence.

The building which exhibits strong tangible evidence of colonialism in Tanzania is a great monument typical of German architecture.

According to local authorities the district commissioner‚’s office was located in the Boma, but had to relocate in 1997, when heavy rain fell, causing the balcony joists to collapse under the heavy load of water. This was after a long period of poor maintenance.

Near it is a plaque marking the first expedition undertaken by the British explorers Richard Burton and John Speke, who set off from here to the interior on June 27, 1857.

“I am not very sure of the extent of the damage in terms of its worth, but it must be in millions of shillings,“ she said.


Other historical sites which she said were being threatened for vandalism are the Kaole Ruins and Roman Catholic Mission.

Kaole ruins, located about five kilometers south of Bagamoyo, date back to the thirteenth century. The ruins comprise remnants of two mosques and several tombs, showing the importance of Islam in early Bagamoyo. All of the structures were built with coral stones. There is a small museum at Kaole Ruins.

The Roman Catholic Mission is a picturesque mission, and the oldest Roman Catholic Church in East and Central Africa. The first Catholic church was built in 1868.

In 1874, Dr. Livingstone‚“ body stayed at the Catholic mission before being sent to England for burial. In the 1800s, Christian missionaries established a ‚Freedom Village‚ at the mission to protect freed slaves.

There is also the first stone building- the old fort. The building is located in the north-west of the town. In1870 it was expanded to become the residence of Sultan`s representatives together with his office and the Arab colonial prison.

The building commands a strong history in terms of architecture. In fact Islamic architecture can be best seen from this building. The old fort has associations with slave trade.

Initially its function was to hold slaves before being shipped to Zanzibar. It has underground passages through which slaves were herded to dhows on the shore.

It was later taken over by Sewa Haji, an influential Indian businessman, who presented it to the Germans in 1894.


These structures must be preserved. Bagamoyo, one of the oldest towns in Tanzania has been designated the country`s eighth World Heritage Site.

The Department of Antiquities under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism trying its best is working to revitalize the town and maintain the dozens of ruins in and around Bagamoyo.

American Ambassador to Tanzania, Mark Green, recently handed over 10,900 US dollars (about 12.8m/- as the first installment of a total of 20,900 US dollars towards the restoration of Kaole Ruins near Bagamoyo.

The Government through the Ministries of Education and Culture and Natural Resources and Tourism, has launched an ambitious drive to promote historical sites as part of a strategy to have more World Heritage Sites in the country.

Before Bagamoyo was designated a World Heritage Site recently, Tanzania was home to seven World Heritage Sites namely, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti and Kilimanjaro National Parks, the Selous Game Reserve, the historical sites of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara, Zanzibar Stone Town and Kondoa Rock Art Sites.

The Antiquities Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism is in the process of finalizing the National Antiquities Policy in an effort to protect historical and cultural monuments in Tanzania.


Museum Security Network / Museum Security Consultancy


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