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Fort Prinzenstein needs saving

BY: Kweku Zurek

For the history and memories, though sad, and the connection to our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora that it represents, we need to preserve the only fort in Keta.

Fort Prinzenstein needs to be saved because it is not only a world heritage site but it also serves as a tourist site that has the potential to boost our revenue in tourism.

As aptly espoused by Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born Black nationalist and leader of the Pan-Africanism movement, which sought to unify and connect people of African descent worldwide, “A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”. A tree without roots is bound to fall; it is bound to fail.

Fort Prinzenstein, built by the Danes in 1784 as their fortress against pillage by the Anlos and other European powers, is an embodiment of valuable history about slavery in West Africa, which can never be told in full without it being mentioned.

Sadly, though, as carried by the Daily Graphic in its last Saturday edition, the fort, one of 32 forts and castles in Ghana (considered to be one of the largest numbers in any country), is being made to go waste due to neglect over the years.

We find it ironic and unpardonable that although Prinzenstein and the other forts and castles are considered national monuments, according to the National Monuments Instrument, EI 42, 1972, very little is being done by way of their preservation and rehabilitation for posterity.

According to writers Ephson and Dr Isaac S., in their book “Ancient Forts and Castles of the Gold Coast (Ghana)”, “These edifices testify to the once flourishing trade between the indigenous African people and the European trading companies of Portugal, The Netherlands, Denmark, England, France, Sweden, and Brandenburg of German Prussia.

The history of Ghana’s government administration, judiciary, religion, health care, and even its architecture has its roots at these ancient relics.”

Yes, relics they may be, but are these not reason enough for the state, through the Museums and Monuments Board, to see to it that the forts and castles are constantly in good shape with good access routes to attract visitors all year round?

The Central Region has the largest number of 17 forts and castles but it is just the Cape Coast and Elmina castles that have been popularised over the years.

It is followed by the Western Region with eight forts, and the Greater Accra Region with six, while the Volta and Ashanti regions have one each. The Ashanti Region is normally not included as its fort has been turned into a Military Museum, which is doing quite well.

As captured in our report, Prinzenstein (translated as The Prince’s Stone), which served mainly as the transit point for slaves bought from the Atokor Slave Market and other parts of Gold Coast and West Africa to North America and Europe in the 18th century, has suffered devastating destruction from angry waves, coupled with the settlements of the locals.

As indicated by the tour guide and caretaker of the fort, James Akorli Ocloo, the devastation of the facility started in 1980 when the raging waves began to lay claim to portions but no steps had been taken to stop the destruction.

The roving lens of the Daily Graphic also captured the current dilapidated nature of the once upon a time iconic fort. The walls of the fort are falling apart and metals are rusting away. It is obvious that the monument has not undergone any concrete rehabilitation except repainting.

We do not only join in Mr Ocloo’s appeal to the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the United Nations Educational, Scientifi c and Cultural Organisation, to, in collaboration with the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, help rehabilitate and preserve the fort which has served as a tourist site over the years, but we also urge well-meaning individuals and organisations in the country to help restore Fort Prinzenstein and other forts to their former state.

After all, as a popular maxim inscribed on the wall of the dungeon of the fort reads: “Until the lion has his historian, the hunter will always be a hero”.

Furthermore, “Slavery and its consequence must be kept in our mind so that we are guided away from such devastating incident in our history.” Let’s save Prinzenstein!