France will formalize the return of a sword history in Senegal and in the coming months to 26 heritage objects in Benin in the framework of his decision to return cultural artifacts taken during the colonisation of Africa.
The government discussed Wednesday the first draft of the law allowing the transfer of cultural artifacts to their countries of origin, that the president and Emmanuel Macron had initiated in his speech in Ouagadougou, on 28 November 2017, on a re-foundation of the cultural partnership between France and Africa.
That restitution "is a very strong commitment made by the president of the Republic for the african youth to have the opportunity to access their heritage, their history in Africa," explained the government spokesman Gabriel Attal at the end of the council of ministers. It is "one of the issues of key importance to a relationship of friendship new between France and Africa," according to him.
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What's in the text on the thorny issue of the transfer of ownership
according To AFP, the draft law allows, " for a limited derogation to the essential principle of inalienability applies to the French public collections ", the transfer to Benin from the property of 26 items looted during the sacking of the palace of the kings of Abomey by French colonial troops led by general Alfred Dodds in the palace of king Behanzin after bloody fighting. These totems and spectres, currently kept at the Musée du Quai-Branly, Jacques Chirac in Paris, will be exhibited at the museum of Abomey, in the course of construction in Benin.
In Senegal, the France shall relinquish formally a sword that the former French Prime minister Édouard Philippe was symbolically handed over in November last the president Macky Sall.
This weapon is historically significant because it was owned by El Hadj Oumar Tall, a war leader and muslim scholar who has conquered in the Nineteenth century, a vast territory that straddles the Senegal, Guinea and Mali, and has fought against the French colonial army. "The sword that brings us together here is infinitely more prestigious than the one I have, it is that of a great conqueror, that of a spiritual guide... the sword of a founder of empire, the empire toucouleur, which included Guinea, Mali, Senegal current, it is the sword of a scholar," said Édouard Philippe. "He is a lover of sword that you said, but its place is well and truly here, in the heart of the old empire toucouleur. "
"In both cases, the draft law provides for a maximum period of one year to surrender, by the French authorities, of these works," says the French government, which has not indicated if new works were to be returned to other countries such as the Ivory Coast. The text should be adopted by Parliament by the end of the year.
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Emmanuel Macron had announced these decisions at the end of 2018 on the basis of a report of the university Bénédicte Savoy, the College of France, and Felwine Sarr, of the university of Saint-Louis in Senegal, who have identified 90 000 african works in French museums.
Their work has been challenged by other experts and museums such as the Quai-Branly, which features the most important collection of primitive art. They expressed concern about the politicization of the debate and the arguments according to which all of the works on deposit with them since colonization, have been dishonestly acquired or looted, and need to be made.
They focus on the "circulation" of works between France and Africa, instead of the refunds, except when, as is the case for statues of the Royal palace of Abomey, the looting by French soldiers was obvious.
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Consult our folder Restitution of cultural property : the immense challenge