Conflict in two African countries places World Heritage Sites in danger


Sites recognised as being of international importance to world heritage in two African states are in danger the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) said this week.

All five World Heritage Sites in Libya are in danger, UNESCO said citing damage caused by conflict in the north African country as the major reason for the change in status.

The five sites are: the Archaeological Site of Cyrene, the Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna, the Archaeological Site of Sabratha, rock art Sites of Tadrart Acacus and the Old Town of Ghadamès. All of the sites were inscribed on the World Heritage List in the 1980s.

The organisation also added the old towns of Djenné in Mali to the list of endangered World Heritage Sites, this time citing insecurity affecting the area as the reason for the change in status.
“This situation is preventing safeguarding measures from addressing issues that include the deterioration of construction materials in the historic town, urbanisation, and the erosion of the archaeological site,” said UNESCO

The Committee has appealed to the international community to support Mali in efforts to ensure the protection of the site.

Inhabited since 250 BC, the Old Towns of Djenné became a market centre and an important link in the trans-Saharan gold trade. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it was one of the centres for the propagation of Islam. Its traditional houses, of which nearly two thousand have survived, are built on hillocks as protection from the seasonal floods.

The site located, in the Inland Niger Delta region of central Mali, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1988.

The Libyan sites, the Committee said, were in an area where there is a high level of instability and armed groups are present on the sites and in the immediate surrounds.