Researcher Puts Timbuktu Manuscripts in Perspective


The following is a statement by researcher Mohammad Mathee regarding the alleged destruction of manuscripts (mss) in Timbuktu, Mali.

“I work as a researcher on the Timbuktu manuscripts once part of the UCT-Tombouctou Manuscripts Project though based at the University of Johannesburg now. I do not think it is as straightforward as BBC and other media are reporting it of Islamic extremists burning the Ahmad Baba Centre. From the news coming in from Mali, the report in the Guardian, BBC etc. is exaggerated. The new building has not been torched (in fact, it seems the Ansar al-Din guys and ilk took care quite nicely of the building).

According to a senior researcher at the Ahmed Baba Centre, 10 000 ms were placed in the vault of the new building (the archival library built by the South African government and civil society). However, according to Dr. Mahmoud Zoubeir, first director of the Ahmed Baba Centre and advisor to former and ousted President Ahmadou Tomane Toure the 10 000 mss were long removed to safety.

It is possible that the empty boxes are of manuscripts destroyed during the process of restoration. Restoration is a continuous process at the Ahmed Baba Centre – and other private libraries such as the SAVAMA consortium – as mss come in from all over the region (Azawad); this I saw when doing research at Ahmed Baba. However, a colleague doing her research in Timbuktu as well told me that these are a few mss.

It is also possible that the empty boxes are of mss stolen; mss are stolen all the time in Timbuktu and sold (usually to some Westerner for a variety of motives).

While it is possible that the Ansar al-Din destroyed things in their hasty retreat, it must not be ruled out that the French created the story to, 1. Give greater legitimacy to their illegal invasion, and 2. That in the case of them destroying mss in Timbuktu (as happened in Iraq), the blame will then fall on the stupid Ansar al-Din. The media (BBC and ilk) as embedded pen mercenaries were all too happy to report on torched buildings and mss.

What is important for academics is not simply to be shocked and flabbergasted, but to pay attention to Timbuktu (now and always). This great African city with its intellectual heritage has a lot to offer. If there are reportedly 100 000 mss of which 31 000 are at the Ahmed Baba Centre then academics must think what a tragedy it is for knowledge that perhaps only 1 000 have been read and worked on (here I exclude those Malians and Timbuktians, not professional academics). Here we too must pay tribute to John Hunwick (who is probably devastated), other academics and especially the UCT-Tombouctou Mss Project that has been working without on the mss for the last 9 years.

Most importantly, we pay tribute to the brave people of Timbuktu.

4 activists held for trying to free slaves in #Mauritania


Journalist, photographer, University professor, and a businessman detained. 4 Anti-Slavery activists arrested in Mauritania

Four members of the IRA (Initiative for the resurgence of the Anti-Slavery Movement in Mauritania) are currently being detained in the city of Aioun by the Mauritanian authorities for demanding that three young slave siblings be freed from their masters. The IRA was alerted by 16 year-old Taleb Jidou, a runaway slave whose three younger siblings – two boys and a girl age 14, 12 and 10 – are held in bondage by the Ehl Khanvour family of the Hodh El Gharbi region

The IRA released this weekend the photos of Lehbous O. Oumar (Businessman), Ely o. Rava (Professor at the University of Nouakchott), El Mehdi O. Lemrabott (Journalist) and Abdallahi A. Diop (Photographer) who are being subjected to inhuman treatments according to the anti-slavery group.

Mistreatment of prisoners in Mauritania

The police are accused of abusing the detained activists

In its latest press release, the IRA seeks to:

“Alert the national and international public opinion on this inhuman method of detention that can lead to death or degradation of the health of the prisoners;

Stand up once again against the strategy of the Mauritanian Government that imprisons plaintiffs instead of punishing those who are guilty of the practice of slavery;

Makes a plea to national and international organizations, human rights defenders and local political parties to press the Government of general Aziz to release these four activists and  apply the 0048 /2007 law pertaining to the criminalization of slavery in this proven case and many others pending in the Justice Department.”

Mauritania: 4 anti-slavery activists arrested for demanding emancipation of 3 slaves  (MJEM)

#Mauritania – Anti-slavery activists suffer worse fate than slave-owners