United States-Mali Partnership for the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Mali
The governments of the United States and Mali maintain excellent relations of friendship and partnership in several sectors, mainly in the cultural field. Mali is full of important archaeological sites, which represent the testimonies of past civilizations. Archaeological sites are visible throughout Mali and cover the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Protohistoric, Great Empires and subcurrent periods.
Like a large number of countries on the continent, Mali is confronted with the phenomenon of looting of archaeological sites and illicit trafficking, which has intensified following the crisis and the residual insecurity that has been installed since 2012. Cultural goods, although old, have taken on a very special dimension in the countries of the Sahel in the last five years. The unrestrained looting of archaeological sites, in particular the beautiful terracotta pieces they may contain, thus appears to be a real disaster for the malians of the present and the future, legitimately concerned with knowing the traces left by their ancestors over so many millennia. A study carried out in the 1990s indicates that 80 to 90% of sites in the interior of the Niger Delta were affected by looting. Some sites were totally destroyed, permanently lost to research.
Faced with the danger of looting and aware of the importance of heritage in affirming national identity, Mali has undertaken a policy of protecting its archaeological heritage through the adoption of legislative texts and regulations for the protection of its cultural heritage National and international conventions ratified and agreements signed .
Accordingly, the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Mali signed an Agreement (an emergency Memorandum of Understanding), on September 19, 1993, on restrictions on the importation of archaeological materials from the Niger Valley and the Cliffs of Bandiagara for the first time. And in 1997, the governments of the United States and Mali signed a bilateral agreement, amended and renewed every five years, which imposes restrictions on the importation of archeological material from Mali into the United States. These import restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for looting and illicit trafficking in Malian cultural property. This Agreement was renewed for the sixth time, in September 2017, due to its positive impact on combating the looting of cultural property. This signing will mark the seventh time this important agreement has been renewed.
The signing ceremony for the renewal of the agreement combined with an exhibition, highlighting the archaeological objects seized by US Customs and returned to Mali under the bilateral agreement between the United States of America and Mali. It consists of artifacts from scientific excavations and looting of archaeological sites. It intends to contrast the results and show that only excavations carried out in a scientific context can provide additional information to our knowledge of our history. It is also through this exhibition to inform and sensitize Malians to the fight against the looting of archaeological sites and the illicit sale of cultural goods, because the protection and preservation of cultural heritage is a civic duty.
United States Government cultural assistance to Mali is intended to promote Mali’s cultural heritage.