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The BBC's Clare Arthurs
''Unesco wanted a greater geographical balance on the list''
 real 28k

Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 19:37 GMT
Mandela's jail named World Heritage site

Robben Island Robben Island: Reminder of the evils of apartheid


South Africa' notorious Robben Island, where former president Nelson Mandela was imprisoned , has been declared a World Heritage site.

South Africa's Robben Island became an international symbol of the fight for human rights when Mr Mandela was jailed there for 18 of his 27 years in apartheid prisons.


Nelson Mandela Nelson Mandela spent 18 years on Robben Island
The island is one of 48 new cultural and natural sites announced by the United Nations education and scientific body, Unesco, at a meeting in Morocco.

The list now has more than 600 sites including the Pyramids in Egypt and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Robben Island has been turned into a museum as a reminder of the evils of apartheid and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.


Mr Mandela's cell at Robben Island Mr Mandela's cell at Robben Island
''Robben Island represents all political prisoners," said former inmate Ahmed Kathrada who is now head of the museum.

"The main message of Robben Island is a message of triumph, a message of victory."

Mr Mandela, who was freed in 1990 and was president from 1994 to 1999, is due to be guest of honour at a millennium party on the island on 31 December.

Natural sites

The museum joins the Saint Lucia wetlands on the country's east coast and the Sterkfontein caves near Johannesburg as the first sites in South Africa to join the list.


New World Heritage Sites
Sukur Cultural Landscape in Nigeria
Ancient Merv in Turkmenistan
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park in Saint Kitts and Nevis
Other countries making a first appearance are Nigeria, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Turkmenistan.

There are 11 new natural sites, including the Lorentz National Park in Indonesia and Mount Wuyi in south east China, both important areas for bio-diversity.

The 35 new cultural sites include the Greek island of Patmos where St John is said to have written his gospel and the French wine area of Saint Emilion which dates to Roman times.

Orkney monuments

The German castle of Wartburg where Martin Luther translated the Christian New Testament has also been recognised, as have Neolithic monuments on Orkney in Scotland.

Other additions include the Vietnamese port town of Hoi An with its unusual streetscape and the country's old Hindu capital My Son.

Responsibility for preserving the sites given world heritage recognition lies with the individual countries.

But Unesco stresses no amount of funding or expert advice will protect the sites unless the public understands their value and takes part in preserving them.

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See also:
28 Oct 98 |  Truth and Reconciliation
Nelson Mandela: Prisoner turned president
06 Apr 99 |  UK
What is a World Heritage site?
09 Apr 99 |  UK
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