A POPULAR UK newspaper recently published an interesting article on the possible danger facing footsteps of the earliest man to walk upright on earth.
The report said the ancient human tracks located at the Laetoli area in Arusha Region, which are over three and a half million years old, are being threatened by soil erosion and tree growth.
US scientists warn that the Laetoli steps may be extinct within the next few years due to uncontrolled human activities and are now calling for international action to protect them. Some American and local scientists even suggest that a museum should be built at the site to protect the national heritage. Others suggest that the volcanic ash footsteps should be transported to the National Museum in Dar es Salaam for safe keeping.
The American scientists who want the ancient ape-men prints to be shipped to Dar es Salaam, argue that ongoing human and natural activities at Laetoli could wipe out a key piece of ancient human history.
Some local scientists who understand very well what has happened to our treasured artifacts kept at the National Museum in Dar es Salaam warn that transporting the volcanic ash printed footsteps, might actually expose them to Western looters who have made a fortune out of our ancient Makonde masks, Chagga chiefs' skulls, carvings and other objects.
Security at our local museums and the questionable character of some of the employees who in the past had colluded with European and American museum owners or dealers to sell pieces of treasured past, leaves much to be desired.
Much as the American scientists seem to be concerned with the safety and security of the footsteps, ultimately is a sovereign right of this country to keep such treasured artifacts within our borders.
We, however, feel that it's not wise to ship them to Dar es Salaam but instead the government should heavily invest at the site by constructing the museum and making sure that the place is accessible.
It?s time that our country stopped being selfish with its own natural treasures and brush aside suggestions by the so-called Western scientists which have often been to the detriment of the nation.
The government needs to set aside enough money to ensure that Laetoli becomes a world class tourism centre by improving the infrastructure, train local residents to benefit from their heritage which has been kept for over 3.6 million years without being wasted and now someone comes around and warns that because of what they saw it won't last the next five years.
These footsteps should stay right where they are and local scientists should take the lead on how best to preserve them and use them as a cultural and educational tourism attraction that will earn this country billions of shillings in future.
We have already lost Kihansi spray toads which are earning some American zoo a sizeable income, so too our Makonde masks which are in Germany and the USA. We cannot afford to continue losing our national heritage through our own incompetence, greed and selfishness.
Wakati tunawabebea mabango hao tunaowaita mafisadi kuna umuhimu wa kuangalia sehemu nyingine za rasilimali zetu. Hapa juu tunazungumzia footstep zinazokisiwa kutoka kwa jamii ya kwanza ya binadamu kutembea wima. Hizi ziko kwetu. Si wengi tunajua hilo. Inakwenda na maji kama yanavyoainisha maandishi(ingawa sikubaliani na wazo la kujenga makumbusho na kupafanya mahali accessible kwa maana naamini kwa kufanya hivyo tuta-accelerate kupotea kwake). Tunazungumzia vyura wa Kihansi ambao nakumbuka tuliwacheka sana wazungu kwa kuhangaikia VYURA. Tuliwaona wapuuzi. Tumebaki na Kihansi inayojaa tope na wao wamebaki na chura ambao wanawaongezea umaarufu. Tunashabikia ujenzi wa mahoteli Ngorongoro bila kuangalia athari zake kimazingira. Tukiulizwa, tunajibu kwa jeuri, mbona Kenya wana hoteli kibao kwa nini sisi tunakatazwa. Kivutio kikubwa cha mbuga za Tanzania ni authenticity na exclusivity zake. Unawaona wanyama katika hali aliyotarajia muumba na hamkumbani na watalii kibao. Tunasahau kuwa Ngorongoro ni eco-system ya pekee duniani. Tunawatosa Flamingoes wa Ziwa Natron kwa hela mbuzi tutakayoipata kwa kuvuna soda ash. Itakapoisha, wawekezaji watafunga virago wakituachia ziwa tupu bila hao flamingoes. Nashangaa shujaa yetu Slaa yuko kimya kwenye hili! Kwa kuweka pamba masikioni tunajimaliza na kesho na keshokutwa hatutakuwa na kitu cha kuwaachia wajukuu wetu.