Lawmakers take action to protect the region’s cultural heritage | New times

The East African Legislative Assembly has authorized MP Françoise Uwumukiza to introduce a bill that promotes the identification and preservation of the region’s diverse cultural heritage and protects traditional, cultural and heritage values ​​and heritage. premises of the people of the six-member bloc. .

It will be called the East African Community Cultural Heritage Bill.

Cultural heritage, Uwumukiza said, includes the tangible and intangible aspects of a society’s culture that have particular value in terms of science, technology, history, archeology, literature, philosophy, arts, religion and other fields related to culture. culture that have passed. of past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations.

While justifying himself, Wednesday, November 24, the Rwandan legislator, among other things, noted how “it is unacceptable” to have African objects preserved in European museums.

“Part of our cultural heritage was taken abroad during the colonial period. We need all of our heritage to be brought back, ”Uwumukiza noted.

“The preservation, safeguard and promotion of the cultural heritage of the peoples of East Africa contribute to the promotion of cultural tourism and the marketing of products highlighting the diverse cultural heritage of our Community. “

MP Mary Mugyenyi (Uganda) thanked Uwumukiza for taking the initiative to introduce the bill, saying it was the EAC treaty.

Under Article 119 of the EAC Treaty, the Partner States have agreed to cooperate in the promotion of cultural activities and to conserve, safeguard and develop the cultural heritage of the Partner States, including historical materials and antiquities. .

Mugyenyi said: “We all agree that our cultural heritage must be protected. Hon Uwumukiza has identified a gap and wishes to fill it. Some countries in the region have established heritage institutions and others have not. The bill will help the whole region.

MP Jeremiah Woda acknowledged that the legislation would ultimately help his country, South Sudan, which is working on the creation of a national museum.

Rwanda’s experience

On October 28, Rwanda received more than 4000 sounds and songs – recorded during the colonial period, and repeated between the years 1950 and 2000 – by the Belgian authorities.

Rwanda is also in talks with Belgium and Germany to see if other works of art taken during the colonial period can all be returned.

Amb. Robert Masozera, director general of the Academy of Cultural Heritage of Rwanda, said New times that cultural diplomacy on the Rwandan heritage of the former colonial masters is in place, as part of a concerted effort to preserve the national cultural heritage.

“Our wish is to see in the East African Culture Bill an ‘Amicus Curiae’, a legal term that calls for help or moral support in legal cases of repatriation or illicit export of heritage to other Member States, ”said Masozera.

Rwanda, he said, has more than 530 heritage sites according to research carried out in 2006 by the then Rwanda National Museum Institute, now the Rwanda Academy of Cultural Heritage.

Another field survey was conducted from 2016 to 2018 to identify sites, collect and transcribe oral traditions and other sources of information: archaeological, written, audiovisual, etc., and around 107 sites have been documented in a book.

“These are hard facts or points of reference to oral history and written documents. And, they are physical testimonies of the environment that add value or importance in the ways of time. Not only do we have a tangible heritage, the country is endowed with intangible or intangible cultural aspects. For example; traditional knowledge in fine crafts such as weaving techniques, poetry, traditional dances and others, ”Masozera said.

The challenges encountered, he noted, relate to capacity building in this particular area.

Moving forward, he noted, heritage preservation and management requires huge investments and concerted efforts.

“The East African Cultural Heritage Bill is timely. In the reconstruction and development processes, Rwanda is now focusing on; more intensive and in-depth research and publications; carry out ethnographic research that leads communities to appropriate, gain pride and protect the country’s heritage, ”said Amb Masozera.

Among others, Rwanda is also actively engaging stakeholders in building greater trust and long-term relationships to jointly manage national heritage.

It also develops policies and legal frameworks to safeguard and promote national heritage.

“An example is the Heritage Law of 2016 and the National Cultural Heritage Policy of February 2015. We also carry out capacity building or on-the-job training in this particular area through international collaborations. “

Rwanda has restored previously abolished cultural practices such as Umuganura which is now on the national calendar.

It is necessary and urgent for the Community

Uwumukiza told the Regional Assembly that there is a need for the EAC to complement and strengthen national efforts by adopting regional measures that facilitate the identification, recording, preservation and dissemination of the diverse and unique cultural heritage of Partner States.

“It is necessary and urgent for the Community to institutionalize the inclusion of cultural heritage knowledge and skills in curricula for sustainability and development. “

She noted that partner states should be able to nominate sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List, for which Africa is under-represented.

As States Parties to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003), Rwanda being a member of the Committee for the year 2020-2024, the six partner States acceded to the Convention which entered into force on 20 April 2006. They are expected to draw up inventories of their intangible cultural heritage practices such as performing arts, games and recreation, language and literature and to develop safeguarding plans to ensure their transmission to future generations.

EAC countries should join efforts and support each other and seek the assistance of the Council of Ministers as far as funds to support needs assessments, inventories, research and documentation as well as legislation and policies. to support tangible and intangible cultural heritage in the region are concerned.

Uwumukiza was “really delighted to learn that Rwanda has been elected as a new member of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee” on Thursday, just a day after getting permission from the House to introduce his bill parliamentary initiative.

On Friday, she told the New Times that it is intangible cultural heritage that gives meaning to natural heritage sites for which Rwanda is committed to working with all stakeholders to promote the values ​​and goals of the UNESCO.

“This has the aspect of committing the States Parties to UNESCO to protect and conserve cultural and natural heritage sites of regional importance by working jointly to identify and include them as World Heritage sites in the EAC. Congratulations to my country Rwanda and all the best in this new endeavor.

World Heritage properties in the EAC

Although Rwanda does not yet have a World Heritage site, Uwumukiza noted, it has two proposals on the tentative list. These are the sites of the Genocide Memorial – Nyamata, Murambi, Bisesero and Gisozi – and Nyungwe National Park.

Burundi inscribed the ritual royal drum dance in 2014 on the representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity and has 10 sites on the tentative list, an inventory of properties that each State Party intends to consider for nomination. The 10 are: the royal residence of Burundi (Gishora), the traditional Burundian house in the Mugamba region, the sacred natural landscapes of Muramvya, Mpotsa and Nkiko-Mugamba which include three royal sites, Gasumo (the southernmost source of the Nile ), Lake Rwihinda Nature Reserve, Lake Tanganyika, Rusizi National Park, Kibira National Park, Ruvubu National Park, and the Kagera waterfalls and the Nyakazu fault.

Kenya has seven World Heritage properties, four of which are cultural: Fort Jesus Mombasa, Lamu Old Town, Mijikenda Kaya Sacred Forests and Thimlich Ohinga Archaeological Site. Three others – Kenya’s Lake System in the Great Rift Valley, Lake Turkana National Parks, and Mount Kenya National Park or Natural Forest, are natural.

Tanzania also has seven World Heritage sites, including its three cultural sites – the rock art sites of Kondoa, the ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and the ruins of Songo Mnara, and the stone town of Zanzibar. In addition to these, Tanzania has three natural sites – Kilimanjaro National Park, Selous Game Reserve and Serengeti National Park, as well as Ngorongoro Conservation Area which is a mixed cultural heritage site. Five sites are on Tanzania’s Tentative List: Oldonyo Murwak, Gombe National Park, Jozani – Chwaka Bay Conservation Area, Tanzania’s Eastern Arc Mountain Forests and Central Slave Trade Route and ivory.

Uganda has three World Heritage sites: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Tombs of the Buganda Kings at Kasubi in Kampala.

Like Rwanda, South Sudan does not yet have a World Heritage site but it currently has three properties inscribed on its Tentative List of potential World Heritage properties. The three are Deim Zubeir, a slave route site; the Sudd wetland; and the migratory landscape of Boma-Badingilo.

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