World War II
World War II

Kenya has planned to launch the commemoration of the centenary of the end of the World War I in the country.

National Museum of Kenya Director General Mzalendo Kibunja told a media briefing in Nairobi on Thursday evening that the official ceremony to celebrate fallen African soldiers who fought in the war will be held between Nov. 23 and 25.

“The event will remember African soldiers, porters and bearers who never made it home and have no grave. It will also commemorate the end of the East Africa Campaign which is the longest military campaign of the Great War,” Kibunja said.

The World War I in East Africa pitted Germans against the British colonial empires.

Kibunja said that the East African Campaign took place in Taita Taveta County in southwest Kenya and some of the sites have been gazetted as national monuments.

The cemeteries of the First World War have also been given national monument status and are currently maintained by a team from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

James Willson, author of Guerrillas of Tsavo, said that in 1914 when the war broke out, the African population of British East Africa, now Kenya, was about 4 million, out of whom about 1 million were involved in the war in East Africa.

Willson said that first skirmishes of the First World War took place in Africa when the British destroyed the radio communication towers in the German colony of Togoland and in the port town of Dar es Salaam in German East Africa, in an effort to disconnect their radio communication link with the German military headquarters in Berlin.

He noted that ten days after the war was declared, the German Colonial Defense Force, known as the Schutztruppe, under the command of Colonel Paul von Lettow Vorbeck invaded British East Africa.

“Attacking the border village of Taveta in the early morning of August 15, 1914, they killed a border guard, the first casualty of the East African Campaign,” he added.

According to Willson, war was never intended to break out in Africa as the Berlin Conference of 1885 decreed that the African colonies of the affected European countries at war with each other should remain neutral.

In reality, however it was inevitable that the European settlers, many of whom already had some military experience behind them would lock horns and fight.

“When the war was declared in Europe on August 4, 1914, the European settlers quickly rallied to their respective king and colonies defense,” Willson said.

He said in Kenya, the military initially used volunteer labor recruited primarily from western Kenya but as the need increased, thousands more locals were obtained from central Kenya and the coast until virtually the entire African male population were involved in the logistics.

The Tsavo Heritage Foundation is seeking to restore and conserve the heritage of the two world wars fought in Kenya or by Kenyans with a special focus on the Tsavo Ecosystem and Dispersal Areas. Enditem


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