Pretoria: International Relations and Cooperation Minister Miate Nkoana Mashabane has described the loss of some of the ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu, Mali as a tragedy. Although most of the scripts are believed to be safe, Nkoana Mashabane said the damage was a great loss of cultural, scientific and historical knowledge.
“South Africa believes that those responsible for any destruction of these invaluable and unique building and manuscripts should be held fully accountable,” she said at a media briefing in Pretoria on Thursday.
Some of the scripts were destroyed on Sunday when French and Malian troops retook the city from Islamist rebel fighters who have occupied the World Heritage Site for months. According to reports, the rebels set fire to the library, however, the extent of the damage is not known.
The ancient texts date back as far as the 13th century and cover a range of topics, from astronomy to poetry. According to the Presidency, the library was constructed by South Africa in an effort to preserve Africa’s heritage and intellectual property.
Nkoana Mashabane said the preservation of the manuscripts was motivated by their historical value and anticipated contribution to the re-writing of the African history from an African perspective. She said it was immensely significant to the continued re-evaluation of Africa’s history, culture and contributions to the African Renaissance.
The minister said Pretoria was fully behind efforts by the regional bodies to restore Mali’s territorial integrity and constitutional rule.
South Africa pledged about US$10 million to the Mali Donor Fund for the capacitation of police forces, in addition to the US$50 million pledged by the African Union in efforts to bring stability in that country.
This special fund was established by the United Nations towards enhancing the capacity of the Mali Security Forces and the operationalisation of the African Standby Force for Mali, AFISMA.
The decision to deploy a standby force is based on the Constitutive Act of the AU, the PSC Protocol and UNSC Resolution 2085.
Pretoria is expected to send about 10 million Euro worth of humanitarian aid to the country. For nearly two weeks, French jets have been hitting selected targets around rebel-held Malian towns such as Gao and Timbuktu.
An initial 3300 troops, mainly from Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are tasked with freeing the north of Mali from rebels as part of the International Mission of Support in Mali.
Dozens of other African nations have also offered to contribute to this force. But South Africa was supporting the African military, it had not planned to send troops to Mali.
The minister said it took more than men in uniform to bring about stability, calling on African leaders to fully respect the Lome Declaration of July 2000 which addresses the issue of unconstitutional changes of governments. Nkoane Mashabane said the adherence to the Lom, Declaration was the backbone of democracy in Africa.