Past Watch Site

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near Kayes, Mali

An impressive complex covering more than a hectare, the Fort of Médine was among the first military installations built by the French during their colonization of the vast region of West Africa between the Sénegal and Niger rivers, which would become French Sudan. Commissioned by Colonel Faidherbe, a French army officer, the complex, built of stone and banco (liquid mud) mortar, comprises a large, two-story building, powder magazine, prison, and an École des Otages (school for hostages) used to educate the children of vanquished African chiefs, surrounded by an imposing bulwark. Outside the compound are several related structures, including a watchtower, a railroad station, the ruins of several trading houses, and a military cemetery.

Neglected out of contempt for their role in the colonization of West Africa, the Malian forts at Bamako and Kita have crumbled; Médine, however, remains standing albeit in a weakened state. Moisture has penetrated many of its walls, causing them to crack and leak, and many of the structures are overgrown with vegetation. Although the fort was declared a national monument in 1992, little has been done in terms of restoration or maintenance. The site’s nominators seek to undertake a thorough site evaluation and develop a plan for restoration and long-term conservation, given its importance in the history of modern Mali, independent since 1960.


A three-phase restoration project was undertaken by the Malian government starting in 2006, and is today almost complete. Various other improvements are being undertaken in conjunction with this project. In 2009, the site was added to Mali's Tentative World Heritage List. January 2011




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