The problem of uninvited guests

Kariokor War Cemetery

READ STORY

Did you know?

Location:
Nairobi, Kenya

Altitude:
1,657m

Biggest Challenge:
Site encroachment

Language:
English / Swahili

Rainfall:
1,062mm

Temperature:
12c - 28c

Upon arrival at Kariokor cemetery, our staff know there is still work to be done before they even open the gates. They can hear the tell-tale sound of a hammer and nail.

This isn’t their colleagues at work, making repairs. The sound they’re hearing is someone nailing out a taut animal hide to dry, just metres away from a war grave.

It’s one of a few businesses which have set up shop, without permission, in the cemetery grounds in the Nairobi suburb named after the Carrier Corps of the First World War, many of whom were recruited from this neighbourhood.

A glimpse of Nairobi (Kariokor) Cemetery from CWGC’s archive.

Today, it’s where 59 African Second World War casualties are buried. Encroachment isn’t unique to Kenya. Around the world, as cities grow, many of the 23,000 locations at which we operate face challenges created by man-made expansion.

At Kariokor, CWGC has been working carefully with local authorities to find the best long-term solution. One plan is to renovate the space into a memorial park, with more information to help people understand the history of the Africans buried there.

A key partner in helping to spread that story is the Museums of Kenya. Their interest in Nairobi (Kariokor) Cemetery saw them bestow it with their highest level of historical importance and ‘gazette’ the whole site as a heritage asset, a part of Kenya’s history as well as that of the Second World War.

People trying to find space to set up their businesses aren’t the only uninvited visitors causing a problem for the Commission’s Kenya team.

Another unwanted guest in nearby Nairobi War Cemetery is something most European gardeners have probably never thought of protecting themselves against – monkeys.

“They come in and eat the plants,” said Daniel Achini, our senior technical supervisor out in Nairobi.

“The problem is that there is less food for them in the forest these days, so they come to the city looking for food. Our cemeteries are full of plants, lined up ready and waiting.”

The plants that survive the monkey invasions need constant care in order to survive the region’s occasional droughts. Guarding against unwanted visitors and reacting to changing weather patterns is all just a part of what it takes to make sure those who died on this soil aren’t forgotten.

“We know there’s still plenty of work to do,” said Daniel, “but, we’re on it.”

A glimpse of Nairobi (Kariokor) Cemetery from CWGC's archive.
A worker nails out animal hide within the grounds of CWGC's Kariokor cemetery.
While headstones have not been affected, CWGC is working with authorities to better protect the site.
CWGC technical supervisor Daniel Achini speaks to those who have taken to using the cemetery for their tanning business.
In Nairobi War Cemetery, monkeys often eat the plants, especially during the dry season when food is scarce.
Nairobi (Kariokor) Cemetery in full bloom, before the encroachment began.
Banner illustration of the Four Corners logo