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date: 04 October 2022

Cultural Heritage and Conflict in Africalocked

Cultural Heritage and Conflict in Africalocked

  • Webber NdoroWebber NdoroInternational Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property

Summary

Throughout history the continent of Africa has witnessed major conflicts and wars. Most of these conflicts have wreaked havoc in people’s lives and their socio-economic well-being. The nature of conflict on the continent has both indigenous and exogenous origins. Past colonial wars of occupation and the subsequent occupations generated conflicts and wars of its own. These led to the creation of what the so-called modern states that exist in Africa. Most of these creations by colonial powers were designed to serve their own interest. However, the wars and movements of independence also generated conflicts of their own. The modern states created during the colonial days are also the root cause of some of the conflicts today in Africa. The world conflicts during the Cold War also generated Africa’s own conflicts. The rise of extreme religious movements like Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), and their affiliates have taken advantage of the fragile states of Africa to cause destruction in the continent. All these conflicts have had an impact on the heritage of Africa and in some instances generated its own places of commemoration and remembrance.

With the creation of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s World Heritage Convention in 1972 and its efforts to protect heritage places, Africa has registered some of the places of remembrance and commemoration to the prestigious World Heritage list. Some of the sites registered are a result of conflict. But what concerns UNESCO is the management of the sites on its World Heritage list. Thirteen of these sites from the continent are on the danger list, largely due to the conflicts ravaging Africa. Through the 1954 Hague Convention, UNESCO has tried to ensure that African state parties adhere to the norms of protecting heritage in the event of a war or conflict between nations. Unfortunately most conflicts in Africa are not between conventional armies but largely internal through guerrilla warfare, thus limiting the application of the 1954 Convention.

Some of the conflicts in Africa that have had an impact on heritage have attracted attention from major powers in the world. For example, the conflict in Libya has had countries such as Italy, the United States, and France interested in protecting the heritage places there. In the same vain France has been attracted to the conflict in Mali, which threatens the famous sites of Timbuktu among others. In all these UNESCO has played a part in highlighting the need to protect heritage and in the case of Mali even successfully enlisted the International Court of Justice to prosecute the perpetrators of these attacks on heritage. In some cases, like in Nigeria with the Boko Haram attacks on the world heritage site of Sukur Cultural Landscape, there has been a deafening silence from either UNESCO or any other international organization or country.

Subjects

  • Sociocultural Anthropology

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