19 February 2013

Mali: Unesco Agrees 7.5 Million-Dollar Plan to Save Cultural Treasures

Photo: Emilio Labrador
Timbuktu mud mosque.

11 of Timbuktu's 16 mausoleums have been demolished and up to 3000 priceless manuscripts have been destroyed, since islamists took control of northern Mali in 2012.

At a meeting at Unesco headquarters in Paris on Monday, organised by the French and Malian governments and attended by international experts, an action plan was drawn up to rescue what remains of Mali's cultural heritage.

95 per cent of the ancient manuscripts are safe, but some manuscripts have already been smuggled out of Mali, according to French culture minister Aurelie Filipetti. Mali's culture minister, Bruno Maïga told those at the meeting that the jihadists had attacked "what keeps the soul alive"

Under the plan, Mali's ruined mausoleums and cemeteries are to be restored at a cost of over 3.8 million euro.

One of the buildings of the Ahmed Baba Institute for Islamic Research is to be rebuilt, and documents are to be stored digitally, at an estimated cost of over 2.9 million euro

And more than 1.2 million euro is needed to train more professionals in the care of historical artefacts and to combat the illegal trafficking of cultural treasures.

"We must talk to families, private libraries, construct secure buildings, digitalise documents, where possible. We have the will, we have the expertise, we will do it" said Irina Bokova, the Director General of Unesco,

Several countries, such as South Africa, France, Norway and Luxembourg have already announced support for parts of the plan.

France's National Library is to help safeguard manuscripts and the French Heritage Institute is to train staff in Mali.

Timbuktu was the site of many precious manuscripts and books, particularly dating from the time when the city was the intellectual and spiritual capital of Islam in Africa, during the 15th and 16th centuries.

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