The members of the National Assembly unanimously ratified the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Prohibition of Illicit Import, Export of Cultural Properties at the session on Tuesday 12th September, 2023 at the National Assembly, Banjul.
Introducing the Motion for Ratification on behalf of the Honorable Minister for Tourism and Culture, the Minister of Justice Hon.Dawda Jallow, said The Gambia, alike many African countries have a significant number of cultural objects in western museums. He said before and during the colonial period the European powers illegally removed cultural properties from the country. He cited examples such as the British looted the jujus, firearms, and ostrich of Musa Molloh the King of Fulladu when they arrested and exiled him in 1919. He also cited how war drums or tabala of Foday Sillah, Emir of the Islamic State of Kombo when he was arrested by the British and exiled to Senegal in 1893. Such looting and illicit removal of cultural artifacts was indeed part and parcel of colonial oppressions against The Gambia. The Minister added that in one museum in French, 35 Cultural Objects from The Gambia have been found there in their catalogue.
Minster Jallow told the NAMs countries in west Africa have ratified the 1970 Convention and are already getting back their cultural objects from European museums. For example, recently France Restituted the sword of Muslim reformer Sheikh Omar Futi Taal. He advised the NAMs to therefore ratify the Convention so that The Gambia can start to use diplomatic and legal means to get back her stolen cultural properties.
The minister reminded the NAMs that restitution imposed certain obligations which is why government is currently building the Sir Dawda Kaiaraba Jawarah Museum in Banjul where restituted objects can be put on display in optimal conditions. He added that with Ratification the UNESCO 1970 Convention Secretariat in Paris and ECOWAS will avail The Gambia with support of capacity building to enable heritage staff at the NCAC to handle restituted objects. The Minister explained that ECOWAS had sent an advocacy mission in 2021 which met and discussed with stakeholders about the 1970 Convention.
After a length and very interesting debate in which all NAMs present contributed, the National Assembly of The Gambia unanimously ratified the UNESCO 1970 Convention.
Hassoum Ceesay the Director General of the National Center for Arts and Culture, expressed delights at The Gambia’s Ratification of the UNSECO 1970 Convention. He told this paper “Once again the NAMs have shown their strong support and commitment to the Arts and Culture by this Ratification, the unanimity of the NAMs who all supported the Ratification shows their cultural patriotism. He appreciates their efforts.” Present at the National Assembly for the Ratification were the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Director General for National Center for Arts and Culture and Fatou Mass Jobe member of the ECOWAS Restitution Committee.