Tourism fails to kick at Kwale graves

Elders at Mafumoni grave yard in Kwale County. The grave yard belongs to a German and British soldier who were killed in the First World War.(Photo: Tobias Chanji, Standard)

About 25km north-east of Kwale town lies Mafumoni village, a battlefield between Germans and British soldiers during the First World War.

Mafumoni, which in Mijikenda dialect means ‘the spear’s head’ is one of the richest sites in the Coast region, but is not widely known. It has been neglected, according to elders, instead of being tapped as a tourist attraction that could earn the community millions of shillings.

Omar Abdallah, who takes care of the war graves, says once in a while people believed to be relatives of the dead soldiers come to paint the place.

“At Mafumoni, a fierce war was fought in 1916,” he says, pointing out the grave of a German soldier in the rank of major and another of a British lieutenant.

The graveyard is on his farm where the battle ended and where locals have been picking bullets to date. “I have several in my house that we picked on the farm,” says Mr Abdallah.

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A fellow villager, Salim Juma, says there are two other graves in the area. One mass grave was for low-ranking soldiers that included Africans and another one was for a Muslim cleric referred to as Sheriff as he was an Arab.

“My grandfather also fought in the war and was buried in the grave. Till now, we have areas that still have pits that the soldiers used as hideouts,” he added.

At Sheriff’s grave, locals hold prayers that they believe bring them good luck.

“I prayed at the grave when I was doing my elementary exams and passed,” says Mr Juma.

The villagers have tales of the various techniques that were used in the war – such as hiding inside coconut palm trunks and use of witchcraft.

“Germans were very clever as they dug holes in coconut trunks where they would hide during the day and shoot at British soldiers,” says a local, Kalimbo Matembo


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