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Possible WW1 Mass Grave for African Porters and Soldiers Discovered in Voi Primary School

Possible WW1 Mass Grave for African Porters and Soldiers Discovered in Voi Primary School

It began as a typical building site. Dozens of sweaty laborers excavated the rocky soil, moved bricks, and mixed cement as they erected a classroom for students with special needs at the particular unit of Voi Primary School in the Voi sub-county.

A week later, the workers appear to have stumbled onto a new archeological site, possibly a mass burial for thousands of undocumented African porters and soldiers who perished during the First World War, which was fought from 1914 to 1918.

Mr. Willy Mwadilo, a World War 1 historian, says they were on the verge of a remarkable archeological discovery with global significance. 

Suppose the remains are determined to belong to Africans who fought in World War I.

In that case, Kenya will have the first official cemetery place for our fallen brothers, according to Mr. Willy Mwadilo.

The discovery of several human bones, bangles, rings, and shackles at Voi Primary School in Taita-Taveta County has sparked a frenzy among historians and cultural specialists.

They have worked for years in vain to determine the fate of African-American soldiers and porters who engaged in World War I.

Little is known about where porters rest.

According to most accounts of the conflict, Africans’ remains were left wherever they fell, whether in the bushes or on open battlefields.

Local historians refer to African porters as the war’s winning hands and feet.

Without the crucial assistance of Africans, the First World War East Africa campaign would not have been possible.

However, European-descended historians, authors, and World War I documentarians appear to have cooperated to minimize the role of Africans in this violent pogrom.

The roles that porters and soldiers played in the conflict have been pushed to the background.

This is frequently considered a deliberate attempt to deny their deserved position in military history by relegating them to the margins of World War I.

On the other hand, the white combatants are afforded a larger-than-life presence for their purported unparalleled courage, which is lauded in lyrical terms anytime the battle is referenced.

This awful humiliation endured in life appears to have followed Africans into the afterlife.

Such advantages are not provided to Africans, although white soldiers whose deaths were celebrated as heroic are buried in well-kept cemeteries and have memorial plaques bearing their names.

There is not a single grave to commemorate their sacrifices.

Even in the dead, this severe inequality prompted local historians to search for the elusive bones of African porters for decades.

“We have always sought to know where Africans were buried. This might be the first realistic opportunity we have to honor them properly,” said Mwadilo.

During the East African Campaign of World War I, fought between the British and the Germans from 1914 to 1918, Taita-Taveta County was a major flashpoint, serving as the site of some of the fiercest battles between the British and the Germans.

The county is rife with unique historical landmarks that directly impacted the war.

British soldiers are buried at a war cemetery on the outskirts of Voi.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains the well-kept cemetery, which features a white picket fence.

There is also an Indian Cemetery in the Maktau region of the Mwatate sub-county, where Baluchi Indians are interred. German and British soldiers are buried in a second war cemetery in the Taveta sub-county.

When supplies and porters arrived at the Voi Railway station, they would land on the Kariokor grounds and be separated into groups.

The provisions were loaded into ox-drawn wagons for the tortuous drive across the wildlife-infested terrain to the Taveta battlefield on Salaita Hill.

The Voi Primary School, where the bones were discovered, is located in this Kariokor neighborhood, which raises the potential of World War I ties.

Mwashoti Fort, a historical landmark from World War I, is located within the Taita Hills sanctuary in the Mwatate sub-county.

British forces constructed an observation post. Before being transported to the battlefront in Salaita in Taveta, the fort also served as a temporary refuge for soldiers.

Near the fort lies the Mile 27 Bridge. This vital asset became a primary target for the German demolition squad.

The destruction of the railroad bridge would have hindered British supplies and swung the war in Germany’s favor.

Germans who attempted to destroy this bridge were repelled by British soldiers stationed to defend it.

The Maktau region of Mwatate is renowned as the location where the first aircraft in East Africa took flight.

The aircraft was delivered in sections and pulled through the underbrush by ox-carts before being completed at Maktau and taking off to aid the British in their battle against the Germans.

Salaita Hill remains the centerpiece of the conflict in Taveta.

Here, hundreds of men from both sides perished while fighting for possession of this vital peak.

The Sniper Baobab Tree is found in The Tsavo West National Park, another historical monument.

As retribution for her boyfriend’s death at the hands of British soldiers, a legendary German female sniper colonized this enormous tree to eliminate hundreds of British soldiers.

Although most of these sites are known, the fate of African porters has remained a mystery until now.

Officials of the National Museum of Kenya (NMK) state that the Voi site must await official verification before it is deemed an archeological site worthy of exploration.

Mr. Jambo Haro, an NMK archeologist, stated that determining if it was an unregistered mass grave from World War I had already begun.

He noted that the bones were rendered worthless due to contamination caused by the building at the location.

“This was an accidental find. Handling the bones and exposing them ruins their integrity. This compromises the accuracy when it comes to carbon dating because it cannot give us the exact epoch they belong to,” he explained.

To prevent further pollution, the building was temporarily halted so that archeologists and paleontologists could evaluate if additional research were necessary.

Such a confirmation would result in a tremendous mobilization of resources and personnel by countries that fought in the war, such as Britain, Germany, Australia, and India.

Mr. Philip Wanyama, an archeologist from the Coast, emphasized the need for controlled research and expert exposure of the bones.

He noted that subterranean fossils are safer than those revealed unless professionals carry out the exposure process.

In addition, he stated that all archeological relics would be meticulously collected and cataloged to provide information on the owner.

“We have human and non-human bones. The research will give us a peek into the identity and social life of the person buried here,” he said.

The finding was made two weeks before the county commemorated World War I on November 24.

Possible WW1 Mass Grave for African Porters and Soldiers Discovered in Voi Primary School

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