The French Senate unanimously votes to restore it to Benin and Senegal as an “act of friendship and trust”
In a unanimous vote on November 4, 343 French senators approved a bill to return 27 colonial-era objects from museum collections to Benin and Senegal within one year. The bill concerns 26 royal objects looted in 1892 by French troops from the Abomey Palace in present-day Benin, which are kept at the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac museum in Paris, and the sword of a western military commander -africain, which is currently on loan to the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar by the Musée de l’Armée de France.
The French government launched a “fast-track” for the bill in July and it passed unanimously in the National Assembly last month, with 49 MPs voting for first reading.
The decision comes nearly three years after President Emmanuel Macron delivered a historic speech pledging “the temporary or final restitution of African heritage to Africa” within five years. But new laws are needed to remove objects from the collections of French museums, which are considered as “inalienable” elements of the national heritage according to a 16th century legal principle. France has adopted similar individual laws to repatriate human remains held in museums.
The Benin-Senegal bill “in no way calls into question the principle of inalienability”, declared the Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot, adding that it is “not an act of repentance, but of ‘an act of friendship and trust “, according to France Media Agency. A report from the Senate committee, presented on October 28, underlines the “strictly exceptional, ad hoc and limited nature” of the bill and rejects the “excessive” recommendations of the Sarr-Savoie 2018 report which recommended the massive return of African objects. through a series of bilateral agreements.
However, senators called for the creation of a national council “charged with considering the circulation and return of non-European cultural objects”, which would advise the government and “better frame” similar legal proceedings in the future. They specified the term “non-European” to encompass potential restitution claims from the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Corn The world reports that this initiative has little chance of being formally adopted due to government opposition.