(NEW YORK, U.S)
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) says it will need eight million dollars to reconstruct the damaged World Heritage Sites in Timbuktu, Mali.
Lazare Assomo, UNESCO Representative to Mali, said this while briefing UN correspondents in New York on Friday.
He spoke at a news conference, entitled: “Rebuilding Timbuktu: The restoration of an intellectual and spiritual capital and its vital role in Mali’s post-conflict recovery.”
Assomo called on the international community and donors to come to the aid of UNESCO to raise funds for the project.
According to him, much more is needed to help rebuild the 11 mausoleums that extremists “totally devastated” in the Malian city of Timbuktu.
He said that UNESCO was working with the Government of Mali to restore the monuments and mausoleums of Timbuktu.
UNESCO, he said, estimated that there were 300,000 ancient manuscripts, some dating back hundreds of years in Timbuktu about themes like astronomy, optics and philosophy during a “Golden Age” of Islamic thought and civilization.
According to him, the organization is working with the local communities in restoring the monuments and mausoleums of Timbuktu.
Assomo commended the EU, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Norway, among others, for their contributions towards rebuilding the destroyed heritage sites, including the return of over 300,000 collections of ancient manuscripts.
He said that so far, the organization had received three million U.S. dollars towards the restoration of destroyed heritage sites.
Also speaking, Ms Vibeke Jensen, Director of the UNESCO Office in New York, said that UNESCO was deeply committed to protecting culture in conflict situations.
A number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, she said, had been deliberately damaged during the conflict in Mali.
“Our work in rehabilitating sites implies much more than architectural repairs; it’s about values, identities and belonging. We need to protect culture from attack.
“Protecting culture is protecting people, their way of life and providing them with essential resources to rebuild when war ends.
“The reconstruction of destroyed cultural heritage in Mali will contribute not only to reconciliation among communities, but also to economic revitalization through tourism.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that during the armed conflict in Mali in 2012, extremists set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless historic manuscripts as they fled French and Malian forces closing in on Timbuktu.
This followed the ouster of President Amadou Toumani Touré in a coup d’état.
On March 30, 2012, the rebels seized control of Kidal, the capital of Kidal Region, as well as Ansongo and Bourem in Gao region and attacked Timbuktu.
The extremists torched homes, mosques and libraries, including the city’s 16 million Pound Ahmed Baba Institute, home to some 20,000 ancient documents on culture, science and geography.
The institute’s underground, climate-controlled storage rooms were home to some 30,000 priceless manuscripts documenting centuries of African culture, science, geography and more.
Most of the manuscripts are in Arabic script, but contain many local languages, and provide unique insights into Timbuktu’s emergence as a trading post.