Majority of President Emmanuel Macron’s parliament, on thursday December 17, voted in favour of the return of looted African artefacts to Benin and Senegal, according to reports by France 24. After 49 MPs in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, voted in favour of the bill—with none voting against—it will now head to the Senate.
If approved, France will officially restore to Benin 26 items from the Treasure of Behanzin, looted during the 1892 pillaging of the palace of Abomey, including the throne of King Glele who ruled from 1858 until 1889. According to reports, King Glele’s throne was a main attraction in France’s Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac museum in Paris. A 19th-century sword belonging to El Hadj Omar, a major political and military figure, will be returned to returned to Senegal.
French Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot is reported to have said that Macron intended to “renew and deepen the partnership between France and the African continent”. France has admitted to hoarding over 300 000 artefacts from around the world, about a third of which belong to Sub-Saharan Africa.
This partnership seems to be on France’s terms and pace. In October, a French judge reportedly fined activist Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza just over 1000 US dollars for alledgedly removing a sacred Chadian funeral statue from a French museum. The judge claimed the hefty fine was to “discourage” such acts and suggested other ways of drawing the attention of politicians and the public to the issue of colonial cultural theft.
European countries seem to enjoy lauding their power through the piecemeal process of returning looted African artefacts. The exact date of return for Benin’s and Senegal’s artefacts has not been officially announced. Senegal’s sword and sheath are owned by France’s Army Museum but are, oddly enough, currently exhibited on a long-term loan in Senegal’s capital Dakar, Okay Africa reported.