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More African nations calling for return of stolen artifacts

By OTIATO OPALI in Nairobi | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-02-20 09:41

One of the royal artifacts looted 150 years ago by British forces from Ghana's ancient Asante Kingdom, which was later transferred to Fowler Museum. FOWLER MUSEUM/REUTERS

Veronica Waweru, an archaeologist doing fieldwork in Kenya, said that museums around the world still hold and exhibit stolen items, despite a UNESCO treaty in 1970 halting the illicit trade of cultural artifacts.

"Even after some museums decide to repatriate artifacts, they must cut a great deal of red tape to do so," Waweru said. "However, in recent years, there has been increased pressure on Western powers to return stolen African property. These demands have caught the attention of the intended targets, as Western leaders all over the world have vouched to begin returning African treasures."

For example, in 2022, Ireland promised to return mummified remains to Egypt. In addition, the Natural History Museum in London and Cambridge University said they are ready to return stolen human remains back to Zimbabwe, and France has showed a willingness to return artifacts to African countries.

Waweru said these developments are a result of sustained pressure by African countries and organizations calling for the return of the items. However, it is important that African countries continue fostering widespread public awareness, she said.

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