Director-General of UNESCO urges respect for the preservation of World Heritage site of Timbuktu (Mali)
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, today voiced concern about the risk posed by fighting around the World Heritage site of Timbuktu in the north of Mali and recalled the internationally recognized obligation of countries to safeguard their heritage in times of war.
“I call both on the Malian authorities and on warring factions to respect the country’s heritage and its commitment as a signatory of the 1972 World Heritage convention.
“Timbuktu’s outstanding earthen architectural wonders that are the great mosques of Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, must be safeguarded. Along with the site’s 16 cemeteries and mausolea, they are essential to the preservation of the identity of the people of Mali and of our universal heritage,” the Director-General added.
Inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1988, the site bears witness to the golden age of Timbuktu in the 16th century and to a history that stretches even further back to the 5th century A.D.
According to the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event of Armed Conflict and its Protocols, armies must refrain from using or damaging cultural heritage properties in times of war.
“UNESCO stands ready to share its expertise and experience to help Mali ensure the safeguarding of Timbuktu,” the Director-General concluded.
According to recent news reports, rebels have entered the site and shots have been heard there. Mali has three other world heritage sites beside Timbuktu: the Old Towns of Djenné, the Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons) and the Tomb of Askia.
Timbuktu manuscripts: Africa’s written history unveiled, The UNESCO Courier, 2007-5, pp. 7-9
Ancient chroniclers of West Africq’s past: journeys of discovery throught the ‘country of the black people’, The UNESCO Courier, October 1959