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Decision : 32 COM 8B.50
Examination of nominations and minor modifications to the boundaries of naturel, mixed and cultural properties to the World Heritage List - Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests (KENYA)

The World Heritage Committee, 

1. Having examined Documents WHC-08/32.COM/8B.Add and WHC-08/32.COM/INF.8B1.Add,

2. Inscribes the Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests, Kenya, with the exception of Kaya Kinondo, on the basis of criteria (iii), (v) and (vi);

3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

Spread out along around 200km of the coast province of Kenya are ten separate forested sites, mostly on low hills, ranging in size from 30 to around 300 ha, in which are the remains of fortified villages, Kayas, of the Mijikenda people. They represent more than thirty surviving Kayas. 

The Kayas began to fall out of use in the early 20th century and are now revered as the repositories of spiritual beliefs of the Mijikenda people and are seen as the sacred abode of their ancestors.

The forest around the Kayas have been nurtured by the Mijikenda community to protect the sacred graves and groves and are now almost the only remains of the once extensive coastal lowland forest.

Criterion (iii): The Kayas provide focal points for Mijikenda religious beliefs and practices, are regarded as the ancestral homes of the different Mijikenda peoples, and are held to be sacred places. As such they have metonymic significance to Mijikenda and are a fundamental source of Mijikenda's sense of 'being-in-the-world' and of place within the cultural landscape of contemporary Kenya. They are seen as a defining characteristic of Mijikenda identity. 

Criterion (v): Since their abandonment as preferred places of settlement, Kayas have been transferred from the domestic aspect of the Mijikenda landscape to its spiritual sphere. As part of this process, certain restrictions were placed on access and the utilisation of natural forest resources. As a direct consequence of this, the biodiversity of the Kayas and forests surrounding them has been sustained. The Kayas are under threat both externally and from within Mijikenda society through the decline of traditional knowledge and respect for practices.

Criterion (vi): The Kayas are now the repositories of spiritual beliefs of the Mijikenda and are seen as the sacred abode of their ancestors. As a collection of sites spread over a large area, they are associated with beliefs of local and national significance, and possibly regional significance as the sites extend beyond the boundaries of Kenya.

The Kayas demonstrate authenticity but aspects associated with traditional practices are highly vulnerable. The integrity of the Kayas relates to the intactness of their forest surroundings which has been compromised for Kaya Kinondo.

Management needs to respect the needs of individual Kayas and to integrate the conservation of natural and cultural resources and traditional and non-traditional management practices; the authority of the Kaya elders should be established.

4. Recommends that the State Party continue with, and complete, the process of developing individual site plans for the nominated Kayas, to supplement the strategy and management plan document, integrating the conservation of cultural and natural resources and traditional and non-traditional conservation and management practices;

5. Requests the State Party to:

a) undertake thorough analysis of all the Kayas, in order to identify those which might be added to the serial nomination in due course;

b) designate Kayas Kambe and Kaya Ribe as National Monuments;

c) enter into agreements with Kaya Elders to establish them as the guardians of the Kayas;

d) modify the Management Plan to reflect the needs of the nominated Kayas, in particular integrating the conservation of cultural and natural resources and traditional and non-traditional conservation and management practices;

e) secure resources for the implementation of the management strategy and plan;

f) identify the settings of the Kayas and put in place Buffer Zones with protection from major developmental threats, particularly mining extraction and building construction, and other appropriate measures to protect the wider settings;

g) produce more detailed mapping of the Kayas.

6. Further requests the State Party to submit a report by 1 February 2009 on the issues highlighted above;

7. Further recommends the State Party that it supplement the traditional zoning practices which provide for an area of limited utilization on the periphery of the Kaya forest, by putting in place formal buffer zones and other appropriate measures, as additional protection from major development threats, including mining, quarrying, and building construction, to protect the settings of the Kayas.

Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties: Kenya
Year: 2008
Decision Code: 32 COM 8B.50