Name ID 2064

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Arusha Times
Extract Author: Valentine Marc Nkwame
Page Number: 375
Extract Date: 25 June 2005

Pre-colonial bunker discovered in Kilimanjaro

It is over 300 years old and extends more than one kilometer below the ground

An underground cave believed to be over 300 years old and which was being used as a war hideout bunker, during the Pre-Colonia Africa, has been discovered in the Rural-Moshi district of the Kilimanjaro region.

The cave, which is about 20 feet deep and extends for more than a kilometer below the ground, is almost an underground village in its own right, being equipped with sleeping chambers, kitchens, cattle pens, sitting and dining rooms, conference halls and 'mortuaries.'

The historical cave is located in the Komakundi village, of the Mamba ward at Vunjo location, an area located at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, within the Rural-Moshi District. At the moment the 300 year-old underground grave is under the custody of the Makundis, a local family residing in the Area.

The residents in the area revealed that the cave was one of about eight other caves that were being used as hideout residences during the pre-colonial civil wars among local tribes especially between the Chagga people and the Maasai.

The Maasai, according to local history, loved to raid Chagga communities and rob therein of their cattle under claims that the animals were actually their rightful possessions bestowed to them by the gods since the first day of earth creation.

As the Chagga men went out to battle, women, children, old people and the disabled would be concealed in the caves that are also full of supplies. Cattle, goats, sheep and other animals were also hidden in the underground sheds.

This particular cave, according to the villagers, belonged to the Kwalaka clan. The other caves in the area, were reported to have caved in with time, but the Kwalaka cave, apparently, has been able to withstand the test of time.

Mrs. Stella Goodluck Makundi aged around 40 years, is the widowed wife of one of the clan descendants. Her husband, Goodluck Makundi Kwalaka, died several years ago, leaving her with two children.

A newly established local Cultural Tourism Programme (CTP) in the area, recently discovered and included the cave among its visit itineraries in which, interested visitors will now be paying US$3 (Or Tsh.3000), to view and actually enter into the dark cave.

From the fees, the widow hopes that in future she may be able to meet the staggering costs of educating her two children. The oldest, a girl is currently in Secondary school, while the other, a boy is at Primary level.

Ombaeli Makundi aged 36 years, is one of the 6th generation offsprings in the Kwalaka clan and currently serves as guide and Historian for the Komakundi cave. His family has constructed a traditional hut to house the cave opening. This hut is constantly kept under lock and key.

A wooden frame ladder leads down into the dark cave and the first sight one faces is a gate and guard room, after which a long corridor leads to other compartments, the faint-hearted usually never dare venture further beyond the gate.

"Even during the old times, the cave opening was concealed under the bed, in one of the family houses and covered with a traditional cow-hide carpet." Said Makundi. The other end of the cave opened at the bank of Kiwindwe River, located about a kilometer away.

"The cave was dug from the river bank, so that water could carry away soil that was being scooped out from the hole." He explained, adding that, the cave tunnel was also dotted with ventilators.

Efforts to illuminate the historical cave with modern electric bulbs have proved futile because all the bulbs that were being installed kept bursting a few seconds after being placed. As the result, visitors will now have to do with spot lights.

A Mountain Guide with Safari Leisure Tour Operators based at Kinukamori Water Falls at Marangu, Alpha Moshi, said the tourists for Cultural packages keep increasing. CTP, founded by the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) may be only six years-old, but is out to overtake the mainstream, wildlife tourism.

Moshi explained that a number of foreign visitors who come to scale Mount Kilimanjaro often have relatives who prefer to explore local traditions of the area, by living with local people and performing local activities such as cooking local dishes and listening to local folklore.

Extract ID: 5076