President calls for return of African properties
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has called for the repatriation of stolen and looted African cultural properties under pre-colonial and colonial circumstances.
That, he said, would help Africans and descendants of communities, groups and individuals who created and produced such cultural properties to reconnect with their history and improve on their knowledge and skills.
President Akufo-Addo made the call at the opening of a three-day conference for the restitution of Africa Heritage by Open Society Foundation, a CSO, at the W.E. B Du Bois Memorial Centre in Accra.
The event, which was organised by the foundation, was attended by participants from around the world, including a former President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, who represented the West Africa Elders Forum, made up of former presidents of the bloc.
President Akufo-Addo said that when the cultural properties were returned, it would offer Africans the opportunity to develop local knowledge of the technology, cultural, social and aesthetic value of the objects.
He said a reconnection of the past and the present would also help establish new relations with the international community, especially “Europe, which is principally responsible for the original theft of the cultural properties”.
The President added that no amount of money could restore the damage caused by the transatlantic slave trade and its consequences which had spanned many centuries, nevertheless, it was now time to revive and intensify discussions about reparations for Africa.
“If reparations can rightfully be paid to victims of the Holocaust, reparations can be paid to victims of the slave trade,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo further said that the restitution processes would not evoke tension if it involved state and non-state institutions, activist groups and local community leaders who would work in partnership with international counterparts based on mutual trust and respect through dialogue, negotiation and consensus building at all levels.
He also said that Africa deserved a formal apology from European nations who were involved in the slave trade and caused crime and damages on the people.
The President announced that the AU had chosen Ghana to host a global conference on reparation for Africa this year.
In line with that, he said the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture had set up a national research team on restitution and repatriation to research and advise on international best practices and guidelines that would support the country in the restitution process.
President Akufo-Addo mentioned Senegal, Nigeria and Benin as some of the countries that had managed to successfully regain possession of some of their cultural properties that were illegally moved out of their territories.
He said the country had also restituted some of its stolen cultural properties and relics and cited the example of 2008, when the government, in collaboration with elders of Ahanta in the Western Region, retrieved the severed head of Nana Badu II, who was executed in 1838.
Others were the return of some collections of the Ashanti royal family and an Ashanti stool in 1984 by the British government.
The former President of Sierra Leone, Mr Koroma, also said that the West Africa Elders Forum believed there was the need to engage with those who held the illicitly acquired and or stolen heritage resources to restitute them to their natural and original environment.
He called for a common framework of inter-governmental action and cooperation on practicalities of the restitution and management of illegally acquired and stolen heritage resources.