A delegation from United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural organization (UNESCO) from the regional office in Accra, Ghana, visited Bunce Island on Wednesday, March 18, 2008.
The delegation has been in Sierra Leone for a week holding talks with the Ministry of Tourism and other Government officials. The delegation is led by Team Leader Ms. Elizabeth Movindo, and includes the Regional Advisor for Cultural Heritage (West and Central Africa) Ms. Moji Okuribido, and Senior Programme Specialist K. Bensalah.
On the trip to Bunce Island with the visiting UNESCO team were the Chairman of the Monuments and Relics Commission Mr. Charles J. Hughes, Peter Donelan of the UNDP, the Secretary General of UNESCO National Commission Mr. B.S. Konneh, and UNESCO Programme Officer Mrs. Susan Kanu.
The visiting team is on a preparatory tour for increased UNESCO activities in Sierra Leone. UNESCO has had a very long presence in Sierra Leone especially in the area of education.
The organization’s work in cultural heritage and preservation of national historic sites and relics has however been negligible in Sierra Leone.
This visit is said to be UNESCO’s start in the direction of cultural heritage and sites management in Sierra Leone. As a demonstration of a new focus on this country, Mr. K. Bensalah has now been appointed to coordinate UNESCO activities in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
He will be resident in Liberia. A senior resident UNESCO official is also expected to join the Country Office in Freetown soon.
UNESCO has pledged to work with the Monuments and Relics Commission to get Bunce Island and other historic sites in Sierra Leone listed as World Heritage Sites.
A world Heritage Site listing brings huge clout to a site that ultimately lures tourists and others interested in history.
The Monuments and Relics Commission is expected to begin work on putting together list of monuments and Relics that could potentially be listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.
National monuments that readily come to mind as having such potentials to be listed include the Old Fourah Bay College Building at Cline town and Saint Charles Church at Regent; reputed to be the oldest stone church in West Africa.
Bunce Island which lies about 17 miles up the Sierra Leone River from Freetown was established as a slave trading station in 1670. It was from Bunce Island that slave traders shipped thousands of African slaves to the Americas.