In the beginning of 2015 the travel advisory by the German Foreign Ministry said: „After number of terrorist attacks in the recent past we strongly discourage travels to the old city of Mombasa and the whole province of Lamu including the Lamu archipelago.”
So I did not visit the Kenyan coast. But in the National Museum of Nairobi I find the architect Kassim Omar who was in charge of the conservation efforts in the old towns of Lamu and Mombasa. The EU spent two million Euros on it. They improved roads, educated young craftsmen and restored 22 houses. Those were more houses than planned, emphasizes Kassim Omar. The house owners payed a quarter of the costs to benefit from the program. And Kassim Omar was hoping for an even better second phase of the programme – which never happened. He says:
“The lessons that we learned from the initial phase was that rather than giving a free grant we could get further by turning this into a revolving fund so that it benefits another person. That is what we had put as part of the recommendations for phase 2, but unfortunately we did not manage to go further.”
What was the result of the evaluation by the EU when the project was terminated in 2002? Omar does not know. The evaluators come and went – and that was it. Omar feels sorry about it. (hear sound byte). The EU office for Kenya was also not able to provide me with the evaluation.
20 years after the restauration of the two dozen houses the old town of Mombasa is decaying according to an article in the Kenyan newspaper “The Nation”: ”Buildings, some over 200 years old, within the gazetted area are crumbling, yet the national and county governments do not seem to care. National Museums of Kenya Assistant Director Athman Hussein said even though at least Sh300 million (around 3 million Dollars, USch) is required for restoration of the buildings, the government has not allocated even a penny for the works.“
According to remarks by Kassim Omar one other hope of the Expo project has not fully come true. Most of the youth who were educated in the old crafts needed for the restoration of the houses have moved to other professional fields. „Some have decided to rather drive a taxi in Dubai,“ says Omar a bit annoyed.