Supporters of Africa’s cultural and natural heritage recently had cause to celebrate. At the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee in September, UNESCO announced five new locations had joined the list of World Heritage Sites, taking sub-Saharan Africa’s total over 100 for the first time.
Rwanda’s first two World Heritage Sites were named among 42 new entries worldwide. One, Nyungwe National Park, has a diverse topography including forests and peat bogs, and is home to the Eastern Chimpanzee, Golden Monkey and other endemic species. The other is a collection of sites in Nyamata, Murambi, Gisozi and Bisesero, memorializing the 1994 genocide that targeted Rwanda’s Tutsi population.
Ethiopia’s 215,000-hectare (531,000-acre) Bale Mountains National Park, which includes the continent’s largest afro-alpine habitat, and Gedeo Cultural Landscape, home to 250,000 indigenous Gedeo people in the Eastern Highlands, were also inscribed on the World Heritage list, along with the Forest Massif of Odzala-Kokoua in the Republic of Congo, a vital habitat for the region’s forest elephants.
But that good news was tempered by the understanding that the continent still has a long way to go when it comes to recognition of its heritage. Sub-Saharan Africa, home to 1.2 billion people, contains less than 10% of sites inscribed on the list. Moreover, Africa has a higher percentage of World Heritages sites in danger than any other continent, and 11 countries (Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe,…
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