Repatriation of Cameroonian Artefacts : PM Instructs Drawing Up Of National Strategy

Below is a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office after the May 25, 2022 cabinet meeting.

“The Prime Minister, Head of Government, His Excellency Joseph Dion Ngute, on Wednesday, 25 May 2022, at 10:00 a.m. in the Auditorium of the Prime Minister's Office, chaired a Cabinet meeting attended by Ministers of State, Ministers, Ministers Delegate and Secretaries of State. The following items featured on the agenda:
l. Statement by the Minister of Arts and Culture on "the process to return Cameroonian artefacts displayed abroad and progress made in the procedure to add some local cultural events to the list of intangible cultural heritage;
2.    Statement by the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife on "the stakes, challenges and prospects  inherent in adapting forestry and wildlife management to world heritage requirements;
3.    Statement by the Minister of Public Health on "status report of the response against the covid-19 pandemic and the cholera epidemic;
At the end of the introductory statement by the Head of Government, the Minister of Arts and Culture first dwelt on the issue of the restitution of Cameroonian artefacts exported during the colonial period, which he presented as an important legal and ethical issue in international relations. He made it known that the State has been recording permanent requests from communities, artists and associations who are demanding the return of their cultural property, among which are the objects of the Tibati and Mabi  communities, the Tangue or naval beak of Lock Priso as well as the Nso heritage relics known as "Ngon so", without being exhaustive. To this end, actions have been initiated with the host countries in order to  reach consensual solutions. Thus, an agreement in principle has been given by a structure holding these  art objects for their restitution. Some foreign institutions have chosen to organise consultations with the local claimant communities, with a view to clarifying prior issues. In any case, an inter-ministerial committee has been set up within the Ministry of Culture to coordinate and finalise the steps being taken.
Referring then to the issue of the registration of certain local cultural events on the Representative List of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity or the Urgent Safeguarding List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the Minister of Culture outlined the procedure governing this operation of recognition of the exceptional value and interest of certain places as well as cultural and natural properties. He said that Cameroon currently has three properties in the process of being listed. Firstly, the Nguon, an event of the Grassfield cultural area, whose technical file was finalised and transmitted to the competent authorities before the deadline of 31 March 2022. Secondly, the Ngondo, presented as the cult of water oracles in the Sawa culture, is dependent on further technical diligence which will enable the registration form to be fine-tuned. Finally, Mvet, which is part of the Fang Beti traditional area, will be the subject of a multinational nomination also involving Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Preliminary actions are being carried out on Cameroonian territory with a view to identifying substantial elements that will be brought  into line with those advocated by the two neighbouring countries concerned.
Taking the floor in his turn, the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife emphasised that the Outstanding Universal Value that is recognised for certain properties is based on three essential criteria, namely integrity, authenticity and protection, which implies adequate management. He distinguished the World Heritage List where Cameroon has two natural properties inscribed, namely the Dja Wildlife Reserve and the Lobéké National Park. The latter is part of the Sangha Tri-National, which is a transboundary property whose surface area extends over the territory of Congo and the Central African Republic. On the other hand, the Minister referred to the Tentative List, which lists cultural and natural sites with potential Outstanding Universal Value, which are likely to be proposed for inclusion in the World Heritage List. In this register, Cameroon has 18 properties including 11 cultural, 5 natural and 2 mixed. It was indicated that the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife is the main manager of the natural sites which include, among others, the National Parks of Campo-Ma'an, Bouba Ndjidda and Waza.
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Cameroon's challenges are to satisfactorily implement the recommendations made to it by the World Heritage Committee, wit...

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