The decision by the French government will see a Dahomey throne returned to Benin and a prized sword returned to Senegal, among several other artefacts.
According to BBC, France has voted in favour of returning looted artefacts to Benin and Senegal. The majority of President Emmanuel Macron’s parliament voted in favour of the return of African artefacts this past Thursday. Benin will reportedly receive a throne taken in 1892 from the palace of Behanzin, the last king of what was then Dahomey. Senegal will have a sword that belonged to a 19th century sheikh returned to the country. The National Assembly had 48 votes in favour of the decision, none against and two abstentions, according to EuroNews.
Additionally, Benin will receive 26 pieces of the Treasure of Behanzin, including the throne of King Glele who ruled from 1858 until 1889. Senegal will reportedly have a 19th-century sword belonging to El Hadj Omar, a major political and military figure, returned. King Glele’s throne was a main attraction in France’s Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac museum in Paris. France has admitted to hoarding over 300 000 artefacts from around the world, about a third of which belong to Sub-Saharan Africa. Ironically, French Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot reportedlysaid that Macron intended to “renew and deepen the partnership between France and the African continent”.
This partnership seems to be on France’s terms and pace. In October, a French judge reportedly fined activist Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza just over 1000 US dollars for alledgedly removing a sacred Chadian funeral statue from a French museum. The judge claimed the hefty fine was to “discourage” such acts and suggested other ways of drawing the attention of politicians and the public to the issue of colonial cultural theft.
European countries seem to enjoy lauding their power through the piecemeal process of returning looted African artefacts. The exact date of return for Benin’s and Senegal’s artefacts has not been officially announced. Senegal’s sword and sheath are owned by France’s Army Museum but are, oddly enough, currently exhibited on a long-term loan in Senegal’s capital Dakar.