France will return “without delay” 26 artifacts to Benin which were removed from the West African country during the colonial era, President Emmanuel Macron’s office said Friday in a statement.
The Elysee said Macron decided the restitution of 26 works of arts requested by the Beninese authorities, and which had been looted during bloody battles in 1892.
“Operational and legislative measures will be taken to allow these works to return to Benin, accompanied by the know-how of the museum which has preserved them until now,” it added.
In March this year, Macron asked Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and French art historian Benedicte Savoy to prepare proposals concerning the possible return of some African cultural treasures from French museums.
After the report’s release earlier on Friday, Macron asked ministers of foreign affairs and culture to take “the next steps, which are decisive in order to reach the goal set for this process”.
A year ago, during a visit to Africa, the French president told a group of students at University of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso that “African heritage can’t just be in European private collections and museums… It must be highlighted in Paris, but also in Dakar, in Lagos, in Cotonou”.
“In the next five years, I want the conditions to be met for the temporary or permanent restitution of African heritage to Africa,” he pledged.
To deliver on his promise, Macron would invite African and European partners in the first quarter of 2019 “to build together this new relationship and this exchange policy”, according to the Elysee statement.
Photo of Queen Idia, famous Benin bronze artifact